Layer by layer, artist Brady Kellner (Ziggy Sawdust) painstakingly sculpts three-dimensional paintings from formerly flat slabs of oak and mahogany, using a dremel instead of a brush and a blowtorch to coax out his palette. Each portrait and still-life that emerges from his Pittsburgh workshop is a careful marriage of inspiration, practiced skill and meticulous planning.
Kellner started as an artist selling pen-and-ink sketches outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and quickly collected a string of galleries from the Napa Valley to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, exhibiting his work.
At a campsite in the foothills of Oregon’s Mount Tabor, however, Kellner found his artistic focus. Inspired by the grandeur of the Pacific Northwest, he bought a basic whittling kit in town and made his first carving: a face in the knot of a fallen tree.
That was 2008. Kellner had moved to California to pursue painting, but began devoting himself to developing his signature “woodography” technique on a private art preserve in the Oregon mountains owned by leather-etching artist Lawr Hugo.
The result combines wood relief, wood sculpture and traditional portraiture techniques to create highly textured, high-contrast portraits and figure studies that liberate the subject from the constraints of the frame by integrating the frame into the image. The technique requires Kellner to work backwards, cutting away the deepest layer first to create depth of field, then etching outward with such a developed vision at the outset that he is able to visualize the finished work layer by layer before he carves a single stroke. The order of each step is crucial. Due to the nature of the medium, miscalculations are impossible to fix.
Now based in Pittsburgh, Kellner’s current focus is the illusion of abstraction, creating works whose subject matter appears to be abstract while being derived from that which cannot be scene with the naked eye which is all around us.