Mississippi artist Jason Kimes tediously welds as many as 18,000 pieces of weather-resistant steel together to make his large-scale, outdoor sculptures.
Artist: Born in Panama City, Panama, Kimes moved as a baby to southern Mississippi, where he grew up.
He earned a BFA in sculpture from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg and an MFA in sculpture from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Kimes has lived and worked in Laurel, MS since 2006.
Company/studio: Kimes Sculpture is based in Laurel. The artist’s studio and workshop are next to his house, which sits on four acres outside town.
In the beginning: A creative kid, Kimes says he was lucky to have supportive parents who found artists to provide lessons throughout his childhood. It was at college that Kimes first had access to sculpture and a medium. He knew then it would be his specialty.
Art & materials: Mostly large outdoor sculpture with weather-resistant materials, such as corten and stainless steel, which can take six months to complete. Also some small works ($1,500 to $150,000).
As a solo professional artist, and not in academia where students are available to help, Kimes has developed a process of combining thousands of small pieces to create something much larger.
“Working alone, I’m able to devote as much time as necessary through a meditative process that I believe is incorporated into the work,” said Kimes.
What’s popular: Life-size figurative work because it’s moderately sized compared to his monumental work and is easily incorporated into an existing residential landscape.
- Welders, which are indispensable to the work.
- A large tumbler, like an oversized rock polisher. Kimes can use it to debur, clean and polish while he is busy with something else.
- JCB telehandler forklift. It’s more than a typical forklift. It is also a crane and essential for loading and delivering large works.
- Richard Serra, American artist and sculptor.
- Antony Gormley, British sculptor.
Special or unusual commissions:
- The first: A CEO wanted to honor his workforce and the dignity of work. After visiting the workers at the chemical manufacturing plant, Kimes was able to represent their labors and dedication by illustrating an actual event, “Hammertime,” at the young company. Kimes made three ten-foot-standing figures, each holding a tool used at the plant and each representing a stage of experience.
- The second: A sculpture to welcome visitors to a newly built but isolated residence in the Hill country of Texas. Kimes created three standing female figures from different metals. In addition to being visually striking, they’re reminiscent of Greek mythology, which is fitting as the ranch name also centers around female demigods from Greek mythology.
- Received a Mississippi Arts Commission artist fellowship.
- Frequently asked to speak about his work.
- His outdoor works are in many collections, including: The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in Laurel; the city of Hattiesburg; William Carey University and the University of Southern Mississippi.
- “Supporting myself and family through making art is honestly more reward than I could ever receive as an honorific,” said Kimes.
Recent project: First Step, an eleven-foot-tall calf and foot balanced on the ball of the foot as though it’s about to leave the ground. The 2,200-pound sculpture is made from more than 5,000 pieces of cut and welded stainless steel on a corten base. It is in a private sculpture collection in New Orleans.
What’s new: Casting small bronze versions of his large sculpture, using the many maquettes (small clay models) he still has from the previous work.
“I hope to provide smaller and more affordable pieces for those without the space to display outdoor work,” said Kimes.
Buy or commission:
- Oeno Gallery (oenogallery.com), Ontario, Canada.
- Caron Gallery South (carongallery.com), Laurel.
- Instagram: @jakimes
- Facebook: jason.kimes.9
- Twitter: jakimes