You may have heard of Mack Dryden the professional comedian, actor, and public speaker, but in recent years he has embraced a new creative outlet: sculpture made from driftwood.
What Dryden calls, “this new, odd passion” has its roots in his experiences as a reporter for a daily newspaper, which included illustrating his own stories. He was good enough to eventually make a living as a freelancer in Key West drawing cartoon advertising art. In 2010, he moved to Louisville after living for several years in Los Angeles.
“I’ve been handy all my adult life,” claims Dryden, “ and have made loads of furniture and other practical things. So this melding of my love of working wood and creating a pleasing composition is kind of a natural progression. As I write this, the Ohio is so high from recent rains that the banks are under ten feet of water in places that usually yield beautiful finds. I’m counting the days until the water recedes, revealing what mother lode of masterpieces it has brought me this time.”
“The first time I walked, crawled and climbed through the tons of driftwood deposited on the banks of the park, I marveled at the treasures that were there for the taking. I found gorgeous pieces that had been sculpted by the environment where they’d grown, reduced to their essence by their journeys downriver, and burnished by the elements until they became—to my aesthetic—finished pieces of art. I saw no reason to try to improve on their inherent beauty, but rather was inspired to find ways to reveal it to the world.”
“I was encouraged when my very first attempt was juried onto our front porch by my wife Teri, an accomplished abstract artist who doesn’t curate casually.”
“Curious about what might be inside some of the pieces I brought home, I ripped a few on my table saw and found spectacular colors and grains. After a couple of early experiments, I kicked myself for using tinted stains and resolved to use only clear products that would enhance the natural colors of the wood.”
Dryden’s description of his journey of creative discovery succinctly answers the question, what does it mean when an artist labels themselves “self-taught”? He has entered a genre that is an easy target for high-minded critics, but it seems to be exactly the point for Dryden. “I happened on a photo of what I considered a hideous driftwood chandelier, it inspired me to try to make a beautiful one.”
Dryden’s chandeliers now hang in half a dozen shops, restaurants and bars in the Louisville area, and he has had his work featured in several locations:
The Outsider Art Fair, New York City, 2016
Art Santa Fe, NM, 2017Craft(s) Gallery, Louisville, KY
Revelry Boutique Gallery, Louisville, KYTrue North, New Albany, IN
Madison Table Works, Madison, IN
Great Flood Brewing Company, Louisville, KY
Hometown: Pascagoula, Mississippi
Education: BA, English and Journalism,University of Mississippi (Ole Miss); MFA, Creative Writing at the Center For Writers, University of Southern Mississippi
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Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2018 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.