Sculptor Christopher Conte combines a knowledge of prosthetics and a love of art in his biomechanical creations. His peices evoke a sense of the futuristic and the antique in perfect harmony. Christopher’s work has been featured in exhibitions including Les Barany’s Carnivora “The Dark Art of Automobiles”, The Detriot Fringe Festival, and in a recent book Spectrum 14.
Christopher Conte’s Website
Which artists have most influenced your work, and who are your favorite artists?
Leonardo DaVinci was perhaps the first artist I became fascinated with. H.R. Giger was also a strong early influence in my work and still lives within the spirit of what I do to this day. Studying his paintings back in high school helped me see and understand beauty in a new way. Recently, developing a working relationship with his agent, Leslie Barany, has been a great honor for me.
Describe your creative process. Do you start with images or ideas?
Most often, I have a rough image in my head but usually not on paper. After I come up with a general concept, such as an insect, I then set out to hunt down parts which lend themselves well to the visual concept. This is usually how it works, although sometimes, a part I find (maybe at a flea market, for example), may immediately lend itself to an idea.
What tools do you use in your work?
A small rotary tool (such as a Dremel) is perhaps the tool I use more than anything else. Most of my work is done by hand using low-tech (and very time-consuming) methods like hand-sanding. A drill press is another common tool I use as well as a drum sander and disk sander.
Does inspiration come to you or do you actively seek it? If so, how?
I find inspiration everywhere. Robotics, nature, medical science, antiques, precision engineering, science instruments, films, books, all serve as inspiration in the process among countless other things. I’m never really short on motivation or ideas, just short on time.
When did you begin practicing your art and how did you learn?
I began to make the transition from painting and drawing to 3-Dimensional work during my time at Pratt. While still an illustration major, my instructors were very supportive of this switch. They saw no reason why sculpture couldn’t serve to illustrate an idea. Most of what I now know I learned the hard way, through experience. In addition, working in the prosthetics field for 15 years, has helped me become proficient with many tools I did not previously have access to.
Is there one piece that is special to you, or that you particularly enjoyed creating?
Yes, the Steam Insect. Although they are all quite special to me in some way.
The biography on your website explains that you worked in the prosthetics field after graduating from Pratt. Did your experience with sculpture come into play in creating artificial limbs, or was it prosthetics that led you to sculpture?
My love for creating sculpture came first. Working in the field of prosthetics has given me a unique opportunity to be continually inspired by the merger of the organic and the mechanical. A strong theme in my work.
Your sculptures look as though they will spring to life with an electric current. Does your knowledge of prosthetics extend into robotics?
Yes, I love robotics and continue to find inspiration from the world of robotics. I probably spend more time looking at robots and machines than paintings.
With “Steam Powered Insect” and “Articulated Antique Singer Insect”, you depict old technology in a futuristic way. How did you approach the challenge of creating these pieces?
It grew from a natural love for antiquities. Hunting places like flea markets helped me develop an appreciation for these artifacts while wanting to capture their appeal in my own work. The toughest part is finding the right part and knowing how not to destroy the character it presents to you.