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Meet an Artist: Sculptor Tony Underwood of Ynot Imagine

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Artist Tony Underwood builds trees from copper and other metals that he attaches to rocks and petrified wood at this home near Southmont.

A walk through the forest not only inspires Tony Underwood to twist his intricate metal trees and build ornate “fairy houses,” it also provides most of the supplies he uses to create them.

Moss, pine cones, rocks and wood are all part of his work, which is a tribute to nature and the human spirit, the 46-year-old Lexington artist says.

How did you become interested in creating these sculptures and wall art?

Well, I’ve always been crafty with my hands. I started by blacksmithing, and that’s kind of where my heart lies. I had a friend who was a blacksmith, and I took some classes, and that kind of led me to these flights of fancy.

What made you choose trees as your primary subject matter?

Trees go through the coldest months of their lives and rough weather, but there’s always the hope for the upcoming spring. I’ve been through some difficult times in my life, and I’ve learned that just like with trees, no matter how bare things get, there is always hope.

What is your creative process?

For the trees, I sit down with a bundle of wire, and as I twist it, it comes alive and dictates what I do next. I don’t force it. If one sits on a rock, I try to make that rock special, whether it’s lava, crystals, geodes or even petrified wood. With the fairy houses, I’ll walk through the woods, and I may pick up some acorns, moss or small cedar trees, and I just put it all together. The houses are what I take a break on between doing the trees.

Where do you get the metal for your trees?

Most of the wire comes from burned-down houses or junkyards.

How would you describe your artistic approach?

I guess I like things a little crazy, that’s where that saying comes from on my Facebook page, “Just a twist away from crazy.” I call my business Ynot Imagine, and “Ynot” is my name spelled backwards. My work is not folk art, it’s fine art. Although I put a whimsical folk art spin on it, I also make it really detailed.

What do you do in your spare time?

Art is about all I do here lately. I guess people like my art and really want it, which is great. I’ve got custom pieces people ask me to do.

How long does it take you to create each piece?

Some of the smaller, less expensive items that sell for $15 to $35 may take an hour to four hours. Larger items that are $40 to $3,000 can take three days or three months.

What sort of commissioned works have you done?

One lady’s father had passed away, and she asked me to do a tree. Her father had kept the key to his house under a rock for 50 years, and she had it. I built the tree on it. When you walk by it, it moves a little, and when it moves, she thinks of her dad.

Those are the things I look forward to, when I can reach into someone’s soul. Anyone can have an idea. When I do custom work, it’s your idea, but it’s my imagination. It’s between the two of us, with both of our souls wrapped up in that art.

Contact Tammy Holoman at tjholoman@gmail.com.

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