Andy Tirado, the 3D arts supervisor for the Colorado College art department, has sculptured a series of massive hands using a very appropriate CC material – reclaimed redwood from the deck outside the studios at Packard Hall, which houses the art department.
Tirado provides tech support for the art department, supervises the sculpture shop, and teaches a spring woodworking adjunct class. He also will be teaching sculpture at the Anderson Ranch in Snowmass this summer.
The four sculptures, all of which depict right hands (Tirado is left-handed; he uses his right hand as a model) are enormous – one is 13 feet long and weighs more than 300 pounds – and take up nearly all the space in Coburn Gallery, where they have been on exhibit. However, the huge hands, constructed from redwood, alder, and steel, all materials Tirado scrounged for, will soon be moved to make way for a new exhibit.
A Palmer High School graduate and an art major at University of Colorado—Colorado Springs, he started out building wood strip canoes. Later, he designed and built custom marketing-related props for clients such as Burton and Frito-Lay, before joining Colorado College in October 2005. The move allowed him to transition from building custom pieces and to enjoying the freedom that comes with making one’s own art. Taking the job at CC, he says, “was like walking into the perfect position. Like it was handcrafted – no pun intended.”
When Tirado embarked on the first piece in the hand series two years ago, he envisioned a large hand contoured as a chair. However, it evolved into something else entirely. “It’s fun not knowing where it will end up. With client work, you know exactly how it will end up. There’s not the same creativity and sense of freedom I have now,” he says.
Sections of the hands are little paintings and abstractions in themselves, coming together to form the much bigger piece. Each finger is individually carved from a larger piece of wood with various sizes of forstner bits, he says. One satisfying element of his work: “Responding to how the work is responding to your touch,” he says. Occasionally a piece will fall or a part will break off. “I don’t try to put it back; I leave some clues rather than hide all the evidence of a break – I think it’s important to allow the work to talk back to you rather than be dictated to.”
His two-car garage has been turned into a studio, and is where he will store the hands for the time being, while also working on another series of hands crafted from steel bands. See more photos of Tirado’s work.