The Art of Melding Nature With Industry
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Birmingham, Alabama - Across America, in parks and outside libraries, you’ll find artist Deedee Morrison’s remarkable steel sculptures - beautiful towers of silver sheet metal that glow from within like a firefly after sunset. Grand as they are, these beautiful structures have unexpectedly humble beginnings at Deedee’s studio in Birmingham, Alabama.
Her studio space is located in what was formerly Republic Steel Mill, situated just outside of an active rock quarry. At one time, the steel mill was an integral part of Birmingham’s industry, and that significance is not lost on Deedee. “Working in this environment gives me such unbelievable perspective.”
She also enjoys the hustle and bustle of the quarry nearby. “I can hear trucks coming and going, dynamite being blown, the quarry walls falling in.”
The path Deedee took to attain her studio near the rock quarry has been a fascinating journey. An economist by trade, Deedee was living and working in London when she began taking sculpture classes. Back then, her medium was clay, and art was merely a hobby for her. After moving back to the United States, she picked up a welding gun and enrolled in a two year certification course at a local technical school. Though it was quite a different experience compared to a traditional art program, the welding course played a large role in her evolution as an artist. “I’ve always wanted to be a welder, I have no idea why,” Deedee laughs. “I love working with metal. It suits me.”
Deedee’s studio is equipped with a plasma cutter, but by working with local fabricators she is able to expand the size of her projects and take on new challenges with her art. The ability to fabricate larger pieces has evolved the more she has learned, and with access to laser cutting technology she is able to achieve more intricately detailed patterns in her pieces.“It is a pleasure to work alongside people who understand the material and its nature better than I do. I’m still learning; I learn every day.”
Deedee continues, “The more I learn the more I understand how I can create – how to make the material bend, how to get what I want out of it or what more I can ask from it.”
As a public artist, Deedee is committed to using her artwork as a platform to relate a message of environmental awareness. Her greatest inspiration is nature, and her studio’s location helps her connect with the earth in a significant way. “I love the heat in the summer; the cold in the winter; being exposed to the elements and that close to the earth. I love working in such an organic yet industrial setting. At the bottom of the quarry, I’m standing in 600 million years of history.”
In her Charms series of sculptures, Deedee incorporates limestone rocks she has collected from the quarry’s perimeter with her signature sheet metal to embrace this geological history she admires. Deedee is dedicated to using environmental efficiencies in her art as much as possible.
“Our understanding of renewable energies is limited only by our lack of knowledge,” she explains. Exploring these renewable energy sources has encouraged her growth as an artist. Some of her earlier pieces are lit with highly efficient LED lighting while her more recent pieces go a step further and utilize solar power.
Seed Pod, located in Chattanooga’s Renaissance Park, is one of her first and greatest practical applications using solar energy. Deedee likens the technology to the process of photosynthesis. “A plant sits outside and absorbs enough energy to build new life,” Deedee marvels. “Seed Pod is a great example of how you can harness the resources of the sun. It is one solar panel that powers itself every day, without fail.”
Demonstration pieces such as this are aweinspiring ways to introduce alternative energy to a community in a profound yet understandable way from a very unique artist.