Sam NejameGallery 242
242 East Berkeley Street, Second Floor
June 27 through July 18
Many Bostonians know Skunk by sight. He is a man hard to forget. You may see him on his way to work perched on a tall bicycle constructed from two frames ingeniously welded together. And at night if you hear disembodied soul music floating through your window, Skunk’s bicycle mounted stereo is likely passing through your neighborhood on its way home.
Despite his somewhat intimidating appearance, when I meet the man with the raffish grin and Dickens-ian stovepipe hat, he is friendly and makes me a cup of coffee. He glances around the sun-dappled room full of his elaborate robots and ray guns and says he believes everyone should be their own super hero. Skunk dresses accordingly.
Kitted out with size 14 boots sprouting what look like porcupine quills, a copper belt buckle the size of a JRR Tolkien paperback and an errant oil dab on his nose, Skunk reflected. “Life should be well lived.” Then he sips his coffee and pulls out a large pair of scissors, spins them on his finger and reinserts them like a six-gun into his modified Black overalls. He is a man unafraid to admit his skill with a sewing machine matches his skill with a torch.
Long on humility, Skunk refers to himself as “goofy” and to his friends as “nerds on bicycles.” Adored by children, he sees it as his job to create environments in which adults feel safe to play. It’s no surprise Skunk takes his inspiration from Science Fiction. In his first gallery show, Gallery 242 features his galactic robots made almost entirely from recycled metal parts. His previous works include pieces for the Boston Museum of Science related to the 2006 Star Wars exhibit. The welder turned artist credits the robot he made for Anthony Daniels (C3PO) for taking his work to a new level.
Although Skunk briefly attended the University of Maine and was accepted at RISD, he says most of his artistic education has come from more than 15 years welding some of the world’s most sought after titanium bicycle frames for Seven Cycles and Merlin. What started out as a lark—actually a moose made out of bicycle chain—has grown into major creative projects of increasing size and complexity.
If you visit, expect to meet “Mobot,” 300 pounds of interior lineman constructed of electrical utility boxes and glowing red eyes and a neck massage gizmo for a brain (think hum); “Lucky,” built out of a nickel slot machine found in a Western Massachusetts landfill; and “Hathor,” named after an Egyptian goddess. “I like her a lot, but while I was welding, a piece exploded and an ember burned a hole in my pants. It went down into my boot. I took my clothes off as fast as I could… most of my robots are friendly, but Hathor is definitely not.
Not afraid to get dirt under his fingernails, Skunk is someone who puts the art in artisan. He is unflinchingly proud of his precise sturdy welds, which make worn drill bits, saw blades and bicycle parts come alive. When working on robots, Skunk says he knows when they’re done because, “They talk to me.” His Charles Dickens reappears as he chirps under his in his robotic voice “beep.” He looks up a little embarrassed and glances at the fish tank. “Of course, it helps to do this late at night when your critical eye gets a little drowsy.”