Lou Lynn: retro-active

Lou Lynn. Tools as Artifacts. 2009. glass, bronze

There used to be a junk store in Inglewood that just sold tools.  Most of the stuff I have came from it, a few pieces were bought new when I first moved to Calgary – my hammer and saw, and when the old CPR fellow across the alley died his son came to clear out the house and told me to take what I wanted from his father's workroom.  Which I did, except for the 4' piece of steel rail bolted to the bench.  

What I love about these old wrenches and planes, rakes and shovels, saws and chisels is the excellent steel of which they were made and the beautiful handles, satiny with long use under pressure. Compared to new tools with their bright dayglo colours and plastic handles, these old pieces are quiet and still, dark and graceful.

Lou Lynn, a sculptor living in the Slocan Valley, has had an exhibition, Retro-Active, travelling around the province this past year.  She works in bronze and glass, using the heft and monumentalism of basic tool shapes.  Some of the pieces are very large: cast glass adze heads, so large one's hand is Lilliputian.  Tools as Artifacts, 38 bronze and glass pieces pinned in a long line on the wall, are hand-scaled and like many old artifacts, each piece looks like a tool, but the function is unclear.  A piece with a bronze handle and a frosted glass prong is both humorous and mysterious.

In the Nanaimo Museum & Gallery installation Helen Sibelius, the curator of the retrospective, has paired Lynn's work with mining and forestry tools from the museum's collection.  These are no less mysterious: a half-inch thick iron spike like a 6-foot long knitting needle with a small wood handle at the top.
In all of this it is the small details that are so poignant.  A plain turned wood handle has a tiny line inscribed half an inch from where it joins the steel: a small, non-functional reference to a ferrule.  Lynn's sculptures makes much of these small details: she isn't making tools, but she is very aware of the hands that made tools, once, and all the small vanities they added to them.

Lou Lynn. Ladle. 2009 bronze, glass, 56 x 46 x 26cm.