The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Local Artist Welds Together Los Altos Community

Local Artist Welds Together Los Altos Community (mp3)

For Hardy Jones, a retired orthopedic surgeon, sculpting and surgery are closely related.

While he has little formal training in art, Jones has always loved working with his hands. (He compares his current work to “finger-painting.”)  So when he retired from medicine at the age of 50, he decided to give a career as an artist a shot.

“[As a surgeon] I gravitated towards the hands-on activities,” Jones said. “I was able to put fractures back together and I was able to do total hips and total knees and work with bone in a way … with hammer and chisel and drills in the same way as my art. So in terms of working with things three-dimensionally in my career as an orthopedic surgeon, it sort of parallels the sort of things I gravitate to and enjoy doing for hobby activities.”

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Jones, whose children attended the school, is the artist behind the Eagle Totem that stands next to the counselor’s building. The rusty metal sculpture depicts an eagle with wings spread coming in for a landing. Jones has done a series of sculptures for the Los Altos public institutions, including many schools’ mascots.

The Eagle Totem, which was installed in 2003, took Jones about six months to complete. Much of that time was dedicated to planning and searching for the right parts. Throughout his life, Jones has collected items like rusty metal or driftwood, sometimes at random and other times on metal-finding excursions he calls treasure hunts. Once, a grateful patient gave him a balance beam after a surgery. Jones incorporates these objects into a form of sculpture that he calls “found art.” He compares the material he uses to the leftover clippings from paper dolls.

“If you make paper dolls, the part that clips out and … fall[s] away is the part you don’t use, and then you keep all the paper doll,” Jones said. “I’m more interested in what falls on the ground, the discarded metal.”

It was his mother-in-law who came up with the name “found art” to describe what Jones does—he makes sculptures out of the items he collects. These sculptures depict anything from fishes to dancers. Although originally Jones referred to his art as “junk sculpture,” he doesn’t consider the things he picks up to truly be junk.

“The junk is the stuff I don’t collect,” he said. “The stuff I collect are the treasures.”

The treasures Jones has collected over the decades are organized in trash cans that line his outdoor studio. Each bin’s lid is adorned with the object that it contains—for example, the tines of a rake ornament a trash can that contains rakes.

Jones said he has always collected objects. While he once thought that he would eventually find a use for all the items in his collection, he now estimates that 90 percent of them will go unused. When he moved from Florida to California, Jones took his collection with him and has continued to add to it. His backyard studio is lined with trash bins filled with railroad ties, broken hoes and other rusted metal items. But while he may have a surplus of objects, Jones only keeps those that have potential.

“I know the difference between something I’ll never use again,” Jones said, adding that he generally doesn’t use shiny, clunky or sharp objects.

Jones has branched out from simply found art. He trained in a month-long apprenticeship with a blacksmith friend who taught him how to use a forge. For the Eagle Totem, Jones used mostly found objects, such as a fireman’s axe for the beak. He ordered pony-size horseshoes for the feathers.

Jones considers himself fortunate because he didn’t have to rely on his art for money, as he doesn’t enjoy making art on commission for strangers. He has made sculptures for public institutions throughout the community, including Almond, Covington, Santa Rita and Loyola elementary schools as well as Egan and Blach middle schools and the Los Altos library. Although technically retired, Jones continues to make art, both found and forged.

“My biggest joy has been doing pieces on commission by schools,” Jones said. “I get to see the piece again and I get feedback from people that see the piece and in the community.”

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