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His mother, at 75, still likes telling the story: Robert M. Bickey, then younger than 10, would gather all the string and yarn he could find in their Ohio house. He’d carry it to their backyard, and he’d tie an end to this tree, zig it around that tree, zag it to the house, then back to the tree – the first few notes in his symphony of a maze of string.
“Of course, I didn’t get in trouble,” says Bickey, now 42. “She thought it was great.”
He often played with materials in exploratory ways, and stringing a maze was a favorite. Even then, though he might not have been aware, Bickey was training his eyes to see lines where there were none. He was making three-dimensional renderings of his mind’s creations. And that’s what he does to this day.
He is, of course, considerably more cognizant of his methods and intentions. In the pieces he submitted for this year’s fellowship, he explored the notions of drawing (in an artistic sense) and of being drawn (a material’s capability of being stretched or bent into different shapes). That led him to use two physical scientific principles, thermal expansion and the gravitational effects of one object on another, as guidance.
Art, and creativity in general, was promoted within his family. His father was a concert violinist before becoming, of all things, an accountant. His mother’s sister is a sculptor and jewelsmith. Bickey’s arts education traces to his childhood, but he began formal training during high school and completed his master of fine arts degree at Clemson University.
The only interest that came close to Bickey’s creative passion was his love of soccer. He played for two years at Brevard College, in the mountains of North Carolina, and after a hiatus, he’s been playing a lot more often the past three years.
He and Dennis Beach, a Wilmington sculptor and painter whom he met when they were teaching classes at the University of Delaware, run a business – they make supplies such as painting panels and stretchers, and they lend their expertise to other artists. With an eye toward high-end design, they also produce lapboards for laptops, coat racks and clocks, among other items.
Bickey, also of Wilmington, continues to explore the methods and materials of contemporary sculpture – he is developing a body of stand-alone sculpture and another body of installation work. The Division’s grant, he says, has provided him an opportunity to grow his studio and expand his practice.
“The fellowship helps to get that tool that has been on the list forever,” he says, “or that particular material that you would use if you had the extra cash.”
For now, Bickey is developing an installation for the soaring Mezzanine Gallery at the Carvel State Office Building, which in December will showcase his work. Browse his portfolio and learn more at www.bobickey.com.
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