A childhood working on his family’s New Delhi tobacco farm provided sculptor Jonas Stonkus with the raw material for the pieces in his latest exhibit.
Stonkus, whose work is on display at Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant until Oct. 28, uses power rods from the kilns used to dry tobacco leaves as the starting point for sculptures that reflect on war, history and archeology.
“As the tobacco industry in Ontario collapsed and the buildings and machinery on the farm became obsolete, Stonkus began reclaiming these objects as the materials for his artwork,” explained Glenhyrst curator Marcia Lea.“The material takes him down new paths as he enters into a discourse with it.”
Stonkus created the earliest works in Artifacts, Shields and Power Rods during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which lend the sculptures a militaristic feel.
Some of the repurposed power rods are tied into bundles that resemble atomic rods or skyscrapers, Lea noted.
Intricately woven metal shields made from the stripped rods further support the exhibit’s overarching focus on combat.
“He doesn’t make political statements, but there’s a feeling that becomes incorporated in the artwork,” Lea said.
As a child working on the tobacco farm – which now serves as his studio – Stonkus spent hours tying dried sticks from the kilns into bundles.
“You can see he’s still counting, bundling, tying with the same materials…but in a completely new way,” said Lea.
Stonkus presents several pieces that resemble stretchers – again evoking a military theme – and several others that Lea thinks look like medieval lyres, connecting to the exhibit’s historical bent.
“The objects allow multiple interpretations and could be seen as the remnants of an imagined culture from the past or the future,” Lea said.
As a companion to Stonkus’ sculptures, Brantford resident Robert Crosby presents a series of paintings in the community gallery space. The Nova Scotia native is particularly inspired by the fishing villages and salt-kissed landscapes of his Maritime home.
Artifacts, Shields and Power Rods runs until Oct. 28, with an opening reception from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 9.