The scene on the south side of the Mesalands Community College art room on Friday afternoon and evening looked more like some sort of post-apocalyptic film rather than a place of art.
One almost expected to see Mad Max step out from the shadows as fire belched toward the sky and people ran around in seemingly carefully orchestrated confusion carrying large chunks of metal, wood frames filled with sand or strange white Styrofoam forms.
Even the outfits of the individuals seemed as if they would be more at home in a science-fiction film rather than clothes artists would wear to create art. Most of the individuals in the area next to the art room wore worn leather pants, shirts or aprons specially constructed to protect their bodies. Then there was a portion of the group who wore shiny almost foil-looking coverings that looked more at home in a hazardous materials site than on the campus of a community college.
What it was, was the 2004 iron pour and the purpose was to create art from iron.
Roughly 80 artist from as far away as Alaska and North Carolina gathered this week in Tucumcari for the annual “iron pour” which has, according to the mother figure of the event D.J. Jawrunner becoming a focal point for many artists throughout the United States working in iron.
“It is the new thing,” said Jawrunner about the number of artists who are turning to the ancient metal to create new works of sculpture.
As the sun set in Tucumcari, well over 150 people gathered in or just outside the small enclosure next to the art room to watch the molten iron poured into molds, to see the art emerge from blocks of sand, to watch exhausted artists in teams of two lift hundred pound ladles to pour the bubbling iron, and to watch the fire shoot tens of feet into the air as more scrap metal was added to the ovens for melting.
According to Tucumcari artist Mike Lucero who helps with the pour, 5,000 pounds of scrap iron was melted for the over 200 pieces of art that were created by the end of the pour on Friday.
“It’s so exciting,” said Jawrunner. “I think it is just wonderful to be here.”
The sentiment was echoed by others from around the country.
“I wouldn’t miss it,” said Eastern Carolina University Professor Carl Billingsley.