Heath Satow Sculpture
Like stalagmites hidden in the wreckage of a capsized boat, Heath Satow’s sculptures stand as monumental treasures destined to new final appointments around the world. His work can be found from Alaska to South Korea. If he had his druthers, however, it would also be here in the Arts District. “You see a lot of murals down here, no sculpture. I’d like my legacy in LA to bring that.” After six years in a space that will no doubt soon demand a much higher rent, these are the last days of artists working in large spaces, perhaps the last days of Downtown Los Angeles monumental sculpture making. These large spaces will soon be gone as will the artists who make them.
Large sculpture projects by artists like Mr. Satow, meant for the public realm, will have to find more affordable points of genesis. He laments, “Artists who work on a computer or smaller painters will always find a place, but artists like me won’t be able to afford it.” Artists who choose to make work on this scale create for the masses to enjoy. Public sculpture is a special kind of artistic commitment that is both selfish and selfless. “The art world seems to be a game for the rich, but public sculpture is seen by millions from every demographic.”
Mr. Satow’s work begins with a hard won idea. The design is further developed in CAD for a 3D printed maquette. He employs a renowned engineering firm who works with artists like Jeff Koons, thus assuring structural soundness by doing the hard math. Henceforth, he personally constructs the work in stainless steel, admitting that the polishing is the least rewarding, but the results are mesmerizing. These often highly polished surfaces reflect the surrounding environment, changing from moment to moment depending on the landscape, weather, and viewer. He proudly describes how, placed in open spaces they transform into a collection of abstract paintings. An enormous, almost truncated human figure of what looks to be twenty feet in mirrored facets looms over the shell of an even larger, very different, almost mechanical piece in mid-process. These take years from beginning to end, consequently forcing the artist to work a sort-of double back creative process where ones visual style evolves, yet the current days work comes from, perhaps, four or five years in the past.
The day’s work used to begin in the studio itself as a live/work space, but now he makes the five minute commute to the studio from neighboring Boyle Heights. As a committee member of the LARABA, the twenty year strong advocacy group for the artists and businesses of the Arts District as well as an active dog fosterer from the now moved Downtown Dog Rescue, he belongs to the fabric of an area where the fibers are stretching amid such rapid change. Hopefully, before his piece of fabric tears off to a new local, he’ll have that chance to install a sculpture here.
Written by Alix Fournier
Photographed by Jack Strutz