Panel I: Organics/Biomass
Medium: Chased/repoussé bronze, wood frame
The first panel consists of a three dimensional sculptural rendering of dense organic vegetal/leafy structures, similar to what is harvested and used as the raw material (biomass) in the BRL. In this case, I chose to populate it with a selection of Iowa agrarian staples including soybean plants, whose distinctive features have been sculpted in high relief in bronze, using an adaptation of an ancient technique known as chasing and repousse. Chasing means working from the front, repousse, from the rear. Combined, they topographically alter the sheet metal skin.
Panel II: Mechanical Systems/Processing
Fabricated: recycled laboratory components: (stainless steel, brass, aluminum, paint, glass, plastic), wood frame.
The second panel shows contrasting subjects inspired by the visually complex mechanical components and scientific apparatus I observed throughout the BRL. These compelling technical ingredients include detailed linear piping, control valves, robust high pressure vessels, gauges, cylindrical tanks and funnel like forms that are essential parts of larger integrated systems used to break down the raw biomass through heating, compression, and distillation into its valuable constituent parts.
Panel III: Analysis/Transformation
Hand formed, fabricated steel, paint, burned wood panel, wood frame
The third panel represents the final analytical procedures and products derived from the mechanical processing of the biomass. Much of this activity may be contained within enclosed computational equipment and casework, so may not be visible to our eyes. To represent this complex informational distillation, I employed a simple, cleanly rendered sleek sculptural form that appears to be suspended in space. This primary element provides an energetic color that differentiates, activates and accentuates the form and signifies the dynamic transformation of a raw material into a clean bio fuel, chemical, material or power that will serve to enhance our daily lives.
About the Artist: Joe Muench
Joe Muench has been honing his award-winning metalsmithing for 40+ years. Now a Professor of Art and Visual Culture at Iowa State University, Muench teaches metalsmithing and jewelry in the same classroom where he learned during the early 1980s. Muench's diverse and uncommon artwork have won Juror's Awards and Best in Show honors at national and international exhibitions. It has been prompted invitations to teach workshops on jewelry/metalsmithing techniques and tool making to fellow artists and craftsmen.