Today we celebrate the birth of Charlie “Tin Man” Lucas, born in 1951, in Autauga County, Ala. Lucas was one of 14 children born to a father who was an auto mechanic and taught his children how to dismantle an engine and put it back together. Lucas’ grandfather was a gunsmith, his grandmother was a weaver and his great-grandfather was a blacksmith—it was almost pre-determined for Lucas to end up working as a sculptor with scrap metal. That much was evident from an early age, when he would make his own toys out of household items and scraps instead of playing with his siblings.
Lucas left home at the age of 14, working and travelling from town to town as a painter to support himself, even making it as far as Florida. Six years on the road passed by before he returned to Autauga County to reunite with his childhood sweetheart Annie Lykes. They married in 1971 and had six children of their own. Lucas continued to work as an artist, painting more often than sculpting, but in 1984 he sustained a serious back injury that kept him bedridden for almost a year. A devout man and poor at the time, Lucas prayed for the inspiration to do something with his work that had never been seen or done.
His prayer was answered, as Lucas returned to metalworking with a newfound fervor and passion that drove him like nothing else. He began constructing his original and unique sculptures from scrap yards and dumps, turning objects that others threw away into incredible works of art. To this day, Lucas incorporates his whimsical and personal vision in his folk art. Even though the junk metal may look crude and ugly, Lucas makes it into something beautiful as his reflection on life—there are ugly and crude moments, but it is up to us, as our own artists, to make it into something amazing. A prime example of this is "Girl with Balloons," which resides in the Georgia Museum of Art’s permanent collection.
|"Girl With Balloons"|
Lucas maintains many homes, including in Selma, Ala., where he used to collaborate with his neighbor, the late Kathryn Tucker in making this “scrap art”. Additionally, Lucas has written multiple books, including “In the Belly of the Ship,” a collection of stories, and “Tin Man,” an autobiographical work.
If you’d like to have a look at Lucas’ work, then we invite you to come to the GMOA, find the girl with the bike-wheel balloons and celebrate with her today!