Photos by Jamie Alexander
Art presents itself in a variety of ways, generally left to the imagination of its creator. For Owensboro native Andy Shoemaker, rusted auto parts and garden tools paired with trampoline springs form the finest of canvases.
Nearly a decade ago, he began transforming discarded metal and other dated objects into some of the most innovative artwork to grace the streets of Owensboro. Some of his more notable pieces are on display at The Pub on Second Street, The Brew Bridge, Niko’s Bakery, and Studio 105.
“A lot of things that I use are rarely in use anymore—it’s dated stuff that has since been replaced by gas engines or electric motors,” he said. “It runs the gauntlet—I may find it in yard sales, dumpsters, or on the side of the road. A lot of times, friends or people in the community will contact me to get rid of something.”
Items that most would perceive as junk, Shoemaker converts into the likes of trees, faces, horses, owls, collages, and more. The first piece he ever crafted was a bird that he gifted to his mom on Mother’s Day nearly a decade ago.
“I’ve been fooling around in the metal industry since I was a teen, and I was always telling myself, ‘hey, that will make something,’” he said. “I decided that I wasn’t going to buy my mom something that everyone else could have; I wanted to make her something.”
That bird that he formed out of a hand sickle and scrap metal was the beginning of his ever-evolving hobby.
“My mom’s friends caught wind of the bird, and of course, they had to have one, too,” he said. “I’ve been making big pieces for individuals and businesses alike ever since.”
He spent the first 27 years of his career with Green River Steel, now working as a contractor for IMG out of Paducah. With over 45 years of experience in the metal industry, Shoemaker delights in taking a break from rebuilding heavy equipment to let his imagination run wild.
“It’s just a hobby to have fun with,” he said. “You get to go into another zone and get interested in what’s right there in front of you—you can get lost in something.”
Shoemaker is married with three sons, one daughter, and four grandchildren, and shares his passion for art with the entire family. He most frequently uses them as a sounding board to listen to his ideas, especially his wife, Debbie.
“I enjoy working with my children and grandchildren—I have two grandkids and a nephew that weld with me. It’s nice to get their imaginations going,” he said. “My wife is always coming up with ideas and listening to some of mine.”
Quick to let him know her thoughts, Debbie will generally respond with, “What? Are you crazy?” or an approving “I really like that.”
Shoemaker’s works range from animals to trees, and from abstract to naturalistic. Some of his favorite pieces, however, are special requests from families to convert heirlooms into keepsakes.
To view more of his found metal art, visit Shoemaker’s Facebook page by searching Medieval Man Studio.