Artist Creates Sculpture with Parts that Move

Pensacola – Jerry Patterson likes things that last. The University of West Florida artist creates kinetic sculptural installations using wood, metal, glass and copper.

“I don’t want something made out of cardboard that is going to come apart when it gets rained on,” said Patterson, who is a senior majoring in fine arts. “I also wanted to make things that move and give people a chance to interact in different ways. For one, you press a button to make it start. For another, you grab a handle and turn it. For another, you insert a quarter.”

uwf-student-jerry-patterson-machineTo make the machine’s gears turn, viewers must insert a quarter into the slot that Patterson created. He wants people to interact with his work. 

Patterson’s work was part of a recent show at The Art Gallery inside the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts on the UWF Pensacola Campus. In two of the pieces, “Bird” and “Motion of Flight,” he used gears from an old photo processing machine and copper wiring with the rubber sheathing stripped off.

“I like to use materials that don’t require specialty tools like a torch or a welder. I want to be able to bend and solder it,” Patterson said.

His art conjures the whimsical feel of wind-up toys, and every part of the carefully designed sculpture serves a specific purpose. The glass on the front of his “Bird” and “Motion of Flight” boxes mutes noise when gears and other moving parts kick into action.

Patterson said he learned mechanical skills at a young age. He grew up in Foley, Alabama, with a father who started a repair business when Jerry was 14.

“If you could push, pull or drive it, from lawn mowers to Mack trucks, we worked on it,” Patterson said.

The glass on the front of the “Motion of Flight” box mutes the noise of gears.

Though Patterson said he makes his art work primarily for himself, he enjoys the comments of fellow students.

“Everybody likes to be recognized whether they are an artist or a writer or a baker,” Patterson said.

The 63-year-old, who will graduate after completing one more class, is a retired Navy master chief. He lives in Milton with his wife and two dogs. He has four children and 11 grandchildren.

He said he went back to college to show his children that “it can be done at any age.”

After transferring from Pensacola State College with an associate degree in photography, Patterson delved into life in the visual arts department at UWF.

“Art is very personal,” said Jim Jipson, a UWF professor of photography, collage, assemblage and installation. “So, we are like a family. I don’t think there are very many people who don’t know Jerry and recognize him as someone who is always willing to help others as he is learning and growing.”

Field Work is a monthly series that highlights research and other scholarly activities being conducted by UWF undergraduate students.