Artist In Focus: Kevin Vanek

Hands of Labor by Kevin Vanek

As a native of Cleveland, OH, Kevin Vanek describes their upbringing as an immersion in the blue-collar world. They used their working-class upbringing and technical training to guide their artistic journey in sculpting. Kevin received their BFA in 3-D studio art from Bowling Green State University and an MFA in sculpture from East Carolina University. Currently, they serve as the Foundry Director and Professor of Metal Arts at UNC Greensboro.

In their latest works, Kevin uses the human skeletal form as a base for their sculptures. The skeletons symbolize all human beings. With these sculptures, Kevin hopes the viewer will see themselves as a human with a skeleton and all other humans without biases based on individual features, aesthetics, or culture.

The skeletal forms are cast in metal, giving them importance and gravitas. The metal sculptures contradict their message, as these metal forms will be here far longer than the humans viewing them.

“As I’ve grown as an artist, I have found my work becoming more and more reflective of larger issues of humanity and less about my personal history,” says Kevin when asked about the inspiration for the skeletons. “My work now is created with the hope of giving attention to the unheard voices across the world, screaming for aid and assistance in their lives.” Kevin’s work comments on planetary disasters and community failings and how these instances disproportionately affect underprivileged and unheard populations. Kevin hopes art will bring awareness to these issues in our community.

Kevin has an impressive art career, including the 2022-2023 Artist Support Grant from The ACGG. Kevin has showcased their sculptures in exhibitions nationwide, from their home state of Ohio through The South. Most recently, Kevin participated in Firefest Arts Festival at Starworks Art Center in Seagrove, NC. Firefest is a huge event honoring artists and artworks that utilize fire as a key element in the construction of their artwork.

“The studio has always been a place where I go to reflect on myself and the world around me,” says Kevin. “Through the skills and techniques of industrial craft, emotional empathy, and a tongue-in-cheek humor, I attempt to create objects that show both the technical skill of metal craft as well the emotional state of the artist.”

Roof Over My Head by Kevin Vanek
LOUD! by Kevin Vanek