If you really want to get to know Andy Ironhart, you will need to look at his art.
“Those are all of my originals. I am not good at creating emotions, so I have always used art, as most artists do, to get those emotions out. The sea turtles, “Little Water Wings”, they are supposed to be freshly hatched sea turtles, but for me when I first made the painting it was supposed to be a family, mother, father and baby, but they are not that way in the wild, that came from me wanting and needing a family.”
He is speaking of his gallery show that is currently on display at Body Piercing Unlimited on Fireweed and C Street. Another theme for that gallery show is paintings that reference outer space — a recurring theme in his work.
“For me there is a strange longing to be part of something like that. I was explaining to a friend the other night. There are so many questions there. Are we alone in the universe? For me, it does not matter if we are or aren’t,” he said.
The questions cause him to wonder, but also serve as inspiration to continue creating. “If we are alone in the universe, that makes us extremely precious, and extremely rare, and there is value to that. If this it, enjoy it.”
Ironhart currently has his work displayed at other locations in town as well. At the Anchorage Public Library in the children’s book section is a massive dragon that he donated, created entirely of upcycled materials left over at Christmas time. If the library ever wanted, they could hook up a smoke machine to this piece or turn it on to make the eyes light up. His inspiration for that piece was born from not wanting to do a simple chore. “I was too damn lazy to take out the garbage, so I packed all of the Christmas materials into a box and put it into the garage. A few days later I was watching Lord of The Rings, or The Hobbit or something. I started to wonder if I could make a dragon out of that trash. So rather than spend ten minutes to take out the garbage, I started a five-month project to make a dragon sculpture. So basically, I am so lazy that I become efficient. I do things so that I don’t have to do things,” he said with a laugh.
His newest work is in a style that is inspiring his work in an entirely new way. “Breaking Beauty” is on display at the Alaska Center for Alternative Lifestyles. The inspiration for this combination of paint, wood, and shattered mirrors was not planned.
“Breaking Beauty was a total accident,” he said. “I will never forget that moment. I was just trying to move one piece off my table, and I bumped my mirror and it started sliding. I reached out to grab it and accidentally put my hand through it. It hit the floor, and I was looking at it and thought, I can make something out of that.”
As he contemplated the concept of being broken, and whether something or someone could be useful, even if they could not fulfill their original purpose a story was born. The story of a woman who was shattered and had to recreate herself. As he told her story, his skill with the broken glass was improving as well.
“The character was becoming better and better in each piece, and so was my skill level,” he said. “So, the character was growing into a stronger person, and I was growing into a better artist.”
Ironhart has never had any formal art training beyond a class in high school that he says ultimately bored him. He decided to start to use the internet to help him learn.
“I have five degrees at YouTube University. You can always learn new tricks, and all of my artistic training comes from going on YouTube, and me inventing my own techniques.” This video instruction has also inspired him to make similar videos for his own process. For each of his work, there are corresponding videos, and the local artist also uses social media so that fans can follow his process. “For me, whenever I go on YouTube, I love seeing the creation of things, I like seeing how it was done, then you get to appreciate more than just how it looks, you get to appreciate all of the work that went into it. You get to see the passion of the artist while they are creating something from nothing.”
When Ironhart sits down to start a new piece, he always has an idea of where he wants to go, and what the story that he is trying to tell is. As his own worst critic, he does not think that he has ever achieved his goals, but that becomes part of his drive to continue, as much as it is a survival technique. “I often thought of myself as being like a volcano. I need to vent in order to not explode. Like a nuclear reactor, you must keep it cool. For me that is my art, it is getting me out because if I don’t, I get very unhappy.” Ironhart feels that he has this gift for a reason. “My gift is not art, I am a storyteller, and I am actually ambidextrous. My gift is creation. It doesn’t matter what it is, if I want it, I am going to create it.” In addition to the mixed media displays that he makes, he also plays several instruments, again with no formal training. He takes inspiration from everything that he sees while he works.
“Everything resonates, I can almost hear it,” he said. “When you are driving and you see the median line, and the dash marks, and the street lights, you can see the drumbeat, you can see the music patterns in life.”
Ironhart currently works construction but hopes to make the leap to his artistic passion full-time. He knows it will be the way to be his happiest.
“There was a period a few years ago where I didn’t create anything for months; I didn’t play my music; I didn’t make any art for six months, and I was the crankiest prick I had ever been in my whole life because I wasn’t venting anything,” Ironhart said. “I am not good with words; I don’t know how to get my emotions out. Since I can’t get it out verbally, I must create. Some people wear their heart on their sleeve — I paint mine on a canvas.”
“Art is a way of expressing what a humans soul should be and allowing us to free what would be contained. Art is creation that evokes emotion,” he said when asked to define what art is. “Think about all of the biggest artists and greatest musicians. They always had soulful works, and you can tell that they are just tearing inside, and they needed to get it out. Of course, they weren’t always being ripped apart. Sometimes they are just so happy that they need to tell the world!”
Follow his journey on Instagram @andyironhart or on Facebook www.facebook.com/andyironhart/