When you think of welding, you might not think of graceful intricate artwork. But, for award-winning artist Jenny Horstman, who works her magic to create life-sized scrap metal sculptures, she first took welding with a goal of using it as an art form.
At age 15, the Whitehall High School student knew she wanted to be a sculptor. She took the two-year welding program as an independent art study course at the Southern Adirondack Education Center to learn the basics four decades ago. She was required to complete the welding program yet there was also time every day to work on a sculpture.
“I was one of the first women to take welding and the first ever to take welding as a sculptor,” explained Horstman. My teachers were Jim Kearns and Peter Hughes. They were excellent welders. They knew the skills to teach us.
“I was always drawing and painting. My grandfather was an oil painter and wood carver, so I was always surrounded by art.
“After I graduated from Whitehall in 1976, I was accepted into the Fine Arts program at San Luis Obispo in California. However, during that summer I had taken a job welding as an operating engineer in San Francisco and never made it to art school. Instead, I worked all over San Francisco as a welder.”
While Horstman never gave up being an artist, her welding took front and center while she worked as a professional welder for more than 20 years as a member of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union. She worked on the pipeline in Alaska and had the opportunity to travel all over that state and gain lots of experience in her profession.
Three years ago she began to focus on her life-sized scrap metal artwork. “The Headless Horseman” is one of her most visible pieces and has been in different locations in the area.
This past spring she placed sixth in the world in Equine Expressions Art Contest in the sculpture division with “Starting Gate,” a sculpture that features four horses with their heads in the starting gate.
Look for one of her latest pieces of a life-sized sculpture of a Champlain Canal Tow Mule on display at the Washington County Fair this August.
Horstman explained how she knows where to weld each piece of scrap metal in her intricate artwork. She held up a piece of scrap metal until it disappeared into the entire structure and was no longer visible as an individual piece. That's when she knows where that piece belongs.
After flipping through her three-ring informational binder revealing lots of different welding certifications, Horstman suggested that if anyone wants to learn to weld, take a welding course at a career and technical school like...BOCES.