“I can open a car door in the summer and not burn myself. Of course, I don’t have any feeling in my fingertips, either.” Caron’s numb digits stem from decades of welding metal to make abstract and geometrically shaped sculptures, many of which dwarf the tallest Phoenix Suns player, and some of which were commissioned for public spaces by the cities of Chandler, Avondale, Litchfield Park and Tucson. His work’s been shown at notable spots including Phoenix Art Museum and Broome Street Gallery in New York City, and he was named “Sculptor of the Year” in 2012 and 2013 by Art Trends magazine. We recently sat down with the artist at the Paradise Valley home he shares with his wife and business partner, Mary Westheimer, their cat and dog, and several of Caron’s curvy creations.
What inspires your sculptures?
The challenge, I think. I’ve really gotten into geometry lately. I can see the picture in my head, and I’ve got to get it out of my head, and that’s building it with my fingers… Once you get the piece all done, once you figure out the technicalities that go into it, then try and make it look like it’s alive – give it some life, give it some flow, give it some sensuality. Make it smooth enough that you want to run your hands over it, rather than something you look at and go, “Ew, I’m not gonna touch that!”
What’s the largest-scale sculpture you’ve done?
The tallest piece I’ve done is called “The Seed.” It’s down in the city of Chandler, at the Tumbleweed Recreation Center. It is 16 feet tall and six and a half feet wide. The whole thing is made out of 16-gauge aluminum, so it’s very thin. And the whole sculpture… [is] sitting 12 feet in the air on the roof of the nursery that is inside the recreation center. They sprung that on me after they awarded me the contract: “Oh, by the way, it goes up there. And oh gee, we forgot, you have a 400-pound weight limit.” The ceiling in my studio is only 12 feet… so I had to make the big piece lying down, [and] translate everything from vertical to horizontal… I had to take it outside to stand it up to be able to see it.
If you had unlimited resources, what would your “dream project” be?
I’ve done two pieces that are truncated octahedrons. Again, a geometric shape. I did one that was only 18 inches across that’s in my studio. I did another one that’s 30 inches across, and that’s down at Vision Gallery in Chandler right now. I would love to make one big. Big. You know, 10 feet tall, 10 feet wide. That would be so awesome, because that’s the type of sculpture that you literally crawl into to create. You’re part of the sculpture as you’re building this thing.
What’s the biggest compliment you’ve received on your work?
“I don’t know how you do it. I can’t see how you created that.” When people come to the studio and they watch me work, then they finally realize, “Oh my god, it’s a lot of work.” This is not something you create in 20 minutes. The piece that took me the longest was actually “The Seed,” and that was nine months of work. But yet when you look at it, you think, “Well, it’s just this silly little shape. It’s hollow. C’mon, there’s nothing complicated there” – except making it.
What are your interests outside art?
I love to ride. I ride a motorcycle. I think that’s where a lot of my curves come from – the roads that I ride, the mountains I’ve been through. I’ve been across the country now from here to Cape Cod and back four times… We love to cook. We love to entertain. I love movies – the more sci-fi, the better. Because again, it’s about turning your imagination loose, [and] letting it run through the little grassy field in your brain.