HOT BIRD, THEN & NOW
29 minutes; released 1999
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Hot Bird is a penguin made of steel -- drawn, cut, pounded, bent with a torch, welded, filed and finished before our very eyes by Minnesota sculptor, Steve Jensen. The documentary opens in a galvanizing shop where the artist is checking his large sculptures of female figures lying on the floor. When asked by the shop owner how much of his life he’s put into this, Steve’s brief explanation starts a journey for the uninitiated...
Next Steve is seen sitting by his finished commission installed at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, expounding about light and grace; here you visually meet his work close up, and perhaps allow yourself to be taken by "that still, small, true voice" of creation. Then, kaboom - suddenly we’re at the shop again, and we understand that this upcoming galvanizing process is the culmination of not one, but two sets of works - the earlier being a set of penguins made twelve years before, which never were finished, for various reasons. “I didn’t know then, what I know now,” he says, ”...you create your own life.”
You learn that this artist also works the night shift at the Walker Art Center, the mainstay institution for modern art in Minneapolis, MN; and that having access to 'anointed' art all the time is both a source of his inspiration and also a frustration. As you forge your way through his making process -- from the first sketch to drilling the eyeballs, reaching the pay-off scene as a vat-side witness at the hot liquid zinc dipping, you get an excellent sense of what it is to be an artist. This beguiling thirty minutes offers the gamut -- the pain and the hard work, the humor and the silliness, the mistakes and magnanimous intention -- that mysterious state of 'love of making'.
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