Artistry: Sculptor Timothy Horn

Antique jewelry and natural history inspire the ethereal, shimmery, almost fantastical sculptures of Timothy Horn.

Text by Robert Kiener

There’s a good reason that many people have described Timothy Horn’s sculptural work as “jewel-like.” As the much-traveled, Australian-born artist explains from his new studio in Province-town, Massachusetts, “Much of my work has been inspired by antique jewelry, especially pieces from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.”

He points to classic works from collections as disparate as the court of Louis XVI to the Medicis to Moroccan royalty as inspirations for what one critic has called his “post-modern riff on jewelry.” Says Horn, “There’s something so beautiful about those historical pieces that resonates within me.”

Horn also uses nineteenth-century studies of natural forms such as coral, lichen, and seaweed as starting points for his art, but he delights in, as he puts it, “re-contextualizing” the things that inspire him by altering their scale and materials. He might transform a small, ornate seventeenth-century pendant into a shimmering, three-foot-high wall hanging of glass, bronze, and lead crystal. Or he may enlarge and reimagine a gem-encrusted hair ornament from the 1700s into a four-and-a-half-foot-long hanging sculpture. “I like to take something and look at it through a different lens,” he says.

His recent series of wall sculptures, Gorgonia (Latin for a genus of soft coral), is a prime example. Inspired by the natural beauty of a sea fan, he has fashioned a series of eight-foot-tall sculptures out of nickel-plated bronze from which he hangs teardrop-shaped globes of mirrored blown glass. “These pieces are hybrids: at once jewel-like but also crusty,” he explains. “It’s all about taking things out of context and putting them into my own context.”

Horn is as skilled a technician as he is a creative artist. As one writer has noted, “Horn’s work conveys fantasy and ornament but is underpinned by craftsmanship and concept.” He has mastered several disciplines, including glass blowing, goldsmithing, metalworking, and more. A graduate of Australia’s Victorian College of the Arts and Australian National University, Horn also received an MFA in sculpture from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. His work has been exhibited at Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum, the National Gallery of Australia, Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art, and other venues, and is included in numerous international museums as well as in private collections around the world.

As a self-professed “gypsy” who has lived in—in addition to his native Australia—Switzerland, Boston, Cape Cod, New Mexico, Los Angeles, and Vermont, Horn says he finds inspiration everywhere he resides.

While studying sculpture in Boston, he discovered Harvard’s internationally acclaimed Glass Flowers collection, created by father and son glass artisans Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka in the late 1880s and early 1900s. He spent hours admiring and sketching these glass representations, which include natural objects such as jellyfish, sea slugs, and anemones. Eventually, many of those lifelike models inspired his own large-scale works.

While in Florence, Italy, in the mid-1990s, he spotted a poster that featured a picture of a seventeenth-century pendant depicting a mermaid holding an hourglass and a scepter. He pulled out his ever-present notebook and hurriedly made a sketch of it. As he recalls, “It spoke to me, and several years later, I began incorporating it into many of my large, jewelry-inspired pieces. You never know what will inspire work.”

Horn produces work for shows and galleries, but also enjoys the chance to undertake a private commission. He recently visited the home of a Boston art collector and created a piece especially for a space she showed him in her art-filled Beacon Street home overlooking the Charles River. “Timothy’s work is one-of-a kind, unique,” she says. “Everyone who sees the piece he did for us, a sculpture in his Gorgonia series, comments on it, asks about it, and reads something different into it. That’s the mark of a true artist.”

Hard at work in his Provincetown studio, creating another coral-inspired sculpture for next year’s Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Horn confesses that he may be about to close a chapter in his nature-inspired work. “I think I’m turning a corner,” he says.

What’s next?

“No idea,” he says, “but I love being back on the Cape. There’s so much to inspire me here.”

Watch this space.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Timothy Horn is represented by P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York City, ppowgallery.com. To see more of his work, visit timothyhorn.net

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