One man’s trash is another woman’s artwork
What kind of artist gets Cs and Ds in art class? Denice Bizot chuckles as she takes me down memory lane during her time at Loyola University in 1998.
As with most introductory art classes, students are required to work in every medium, which typically begins with 2D. She admits she is not a 2D person, however, once she graduated into the more advanced art classes, she had her “ah-ha” moment when she discovered 3D—and a plasma torch, which she taught herself to use. It is here where she found her calling as a metal sculptor.
Sitting in her backyard, it is pretty obvious where she gathers most of her inspiration for her artwork. Horsetail grass grows in large swaths here and there. Each terrace of the lawn is lined with rocks of all shapes and sizes and tiny pieces of metal that are either part of a previous work or are about to become a new work. The yard offers up more about her life with toys strewn about and a jungle gym for a little one.
There’s something different about her work. I’m not sure describing her artwork as “upcycled” fully encompasses the amount of work and imagination that goes into her pieces. Perhaps something more along the lines of “reincarnated” is more appropriate. Bizot pilfers through scrapyards to locate rusty relics of yesteryear, old car hoods and shovels, and gives them new life in her studio. Currently, she is giving a 1956 Dodge Coronet hood a makeover. She even works with woks.
The delicate shapes cut into each piece, she admits, “are inspired by something in nature.” It is this melding of the natural world with the manmade world that produces such unique and curious pieces. Many of the designs are leaf or floral patterns or some combination of both. And some patterns are simply something pulled out of Bizot’s deep imagination such as the crinkled 55-gallon drum that adorns her yard. The drum is cut full of holes and resembles a large, lace doily made of rusty metal that has been dropped onto the floor.
Bizot smiles as she talks about her earliest memories concerning her artistic inclinations not realizing, at such a young age, she was already seeing art in day-to-day things, “I used to take paper napkins...they would be those napkins that were floral embossed, and I would paint those.” She pauses trying to remember her age, thinking she was around 10 years old, “I think I actually started painting them with fingernail polish. I would take my mom’s old empty fingernail polish bottles.”
Bizot’s family has called New Orleans home since the early 1800s. Bizot called it home for 25 years but traveled between New Orleans and Chattanooga for a number of those years. She grew tired of the long trek and decided to sell her house in New Orleans and officially call Chattanooga home approximately two years ago, drawn in by Chattanooga’s central location and the beautiful mountains. Bizot’s backyard backs up to the base of Lookout Mountain in St. Elmo, where she says the flowers and trees greatly influence her work.
Interestingly enough Bizot tried out several other career options before finally settling on her role as an artist. Following graduation from college, she took a job working as a drafter for the petroleum industry doing cartography work. After putting in 10 years, she grew bored with it and moved on to something else. At around 30 years old, she decided she wanted to be a drummer in a ‘60s cover band. She stayed with it for another 10 years and called it quits.
Once she made the decision to commit to her artwork, she went full steam ahead into the art world as an award-winning artist with pieces all over the globe from Amsterdam to Manhattan. While car hoods and shovels seem to be her first choice, Bizot also works with flat sheets of aluminum, copper and brass that are turned into wall adornments that are then sold to hospitals, restaurants, and corporate collections. Currently, her work is on display in both Area 61 and In-Town Gallery in downtown Chattanooga.
Bizot still turns her nose up at 2D artwork. She enjoys the fact that her pieces were once used to fill another role—they have a story, a history. She chooses old car parts due to their “personality,” explaining that new cars just don’t have the same qualities.
Of her experience, she remarks, “I’ve found along the way it’s easy to make good stuff. It’s very hard to make excellent stuff. It’s very hard to make work that makes someone turn their head twice, and that’s what you want to put in a gallery.”