Art & Artists
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artist cyrus coron
Artist Cyrus Coron
December, 2013, Page 28
Photos by Garrett Cook
Artist Cyrus Coron sits in his Phoenix home next to one of his signature crosses.
Cyrus Coron finds inspiration for his woodworks amid the rubble of the Old West’s long-forgotten structures
Abandoned mines and buildings are great places to get bit, shot and arrested,” notes Phoenix resident Cyrus Coron on his website. “I’ve been stung by a scorpion; I don’t take my dogs since they’ll pick fights with rattlesnakes. And I always take 100 feet of towrope with me; you only make the mistake of [hauling wood] without it once,” the artist states casually.
Coron ventures out into the Utah/Arizona desert in search of remnants from crumbling structures of yesteryear, seeking to preserve the Old West through these reclaimed materials. A section of an abandoned Dust Bowl-era farm, a piece of an old railroad trestle, a floor joint marred by a fire that destroyed the 19th-century house it was in—all serve as the foundations of his work.
One of his earliest memories is of sitting on the porch of his family home when he was 3 years old, whittling a stick with the tiny knife attached to his father’s nail clippers. “I’ve always been fascinated by wood,” he recalls. Now, the artist fashions crosses, furniture and mirrors from his desert finds. “A piece of wood may start out being 6-inches-thick and only be 4 inches when I’m finished with it,” he states. Re-milling, planing and oiling the wood he finds allows the artist to get the dimensions and texture he desires while preserving the wood’s natural color. “All I can do is expose it for what it is.”
From the Morada collection, this cross is made from a Salt Lake City green house circa 1905.
A move to Utah when he was 25, followed by marriage and the purchase of a dilapidated 1906 Victorian house, meant “money was tight” for the young artist and his wife, Nona. For inexpensive recreation, the two regularly ventured out into the “middle of nowhere”—her seeking natural hot springs and him old mines. “It all started with the wife and I having these adventures together,” he says.
In time, Coron began limiting his excursions to old mining towns, so he could gather wood to make into furniture for his house and to sell to others. “We lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the niche there was authentic Western. I began selling pieces I made at a local farmers’ market,” he recalls. Coron refers to the furnishings as “authentic slices of Western American history,” alluding to a time when the West was dotted with tall redwood trees and blanketed in open pastures. “Woodworking for me is a continuation of experiences I share with my wife—my connection to the past.”
Having spent much of his youth in New York, the craftsman explains that growing up in a region where history and relics are not only preserved but also highly sought after, instilled a deep appreciation in him for historical relics. Eventually, Coron and his wife moved to Phoenix, where he continues to collect scattered bits of the West.
Pointing to a cross he made from the wooden fragments of an old gold mine, each ring in the wood discernible to the touch, Coron says, “There are at least 150 years in this one piece. It seems almost disrespectful to treat [the wood] any other way. People back then didn’t have a lot of money, so it’s the idea of making something out of what is available to you.”
This cross from Coron’s Apilada collection features alternating strips of salvaged old-growth coastal redwood and old-growth pine.
This cross is made from old-growth locust salvaged from a farm house in Utah, circa 1890. The inscription on each cross is comprised of individually burned dots done by Coron’s wife, Nona.
The old-growth douglas fir wood used to make the Erosion II Coffee Table came from the entrance to a collapsing gold mine shaft that overlooks the rift valleys of the Western Great Basin in southern Utah.
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