While a lot of little boys grew up going to baseball games with their fathers, 24-year-old Patrick Camut of Charleroi said he grew up going to art museums with his dad.
Camut’s father, Theo, is an art illustrator and heavily influenced his son’s interest in the arts.
The younger Camut is a three-dimensional sculptor who creates and sculpts interactive mechanical structures. His sculpture, “Spark Machine,” won first place at “Art of the State: Pennsylvania 2013,” a juried art exhibition in Harrisburg this week. The 46th annual exhibit features 137 works by 131 artists from 31 counties.
When he found out he had won, Camut said he looked at the machine he created and thought that together, he and the machine had achieved something special.
“I felt a true connection with that machine,” he said. “I saw it as this friend … we did this together. The juror saw what I saw when I built this piece.” Despite a mechanical breakdown in the first show he entered the piece in and a minor setback in the second, Camut kept pushing forward. He even sold his iPad to complete the machine. But in the end, for Camut, it was worth it.
“(It) was very hard, and frustrating, but the end result and seeing people smiling as they interact with (it is) a greater satisfaction,” he said. Camut received $500 for his first-place finish.
Camut first became interested in three-dimensional art while attending college at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He realized that working with three-dimensional objects could be related back to his childhood – when he built with Legos, made buildings and worked with cars and bikes. “It’s interesting how much I enjoyed it,” he said.
Camut starts most of his projects after an event or specific moment significantly affects his life. He considers all of the moments to be life – changing, whether they be simple, like a kiss, or more complicated, like college graduation. Once he picks a specific moment that he wants to share in a sculpture, Camut turns to one of his many sketchbooks and books on mechanical properties. He then uses those references and mechanical ideas to design a machine.
“Spark Machine” is the fourth machine out of a series of six. Each expresses a part of what Camut calls the “honeymoon phase” of a relationship. The series, called “Suggestive Mechanical Expression,” is based on Camut’s relationship with his girlfriend, Alison Reken. Each machine represents a different phase of their relationship.
“It’s not often you see romance being expressed through hard metal,” he said. “I love that juxtaposition.” When people interact with the “Spark Machine,” two of them sit down and pedal, and as the motion becomes more synchronized, sparks will fly. Just like in a relationship, Camut said, the couple needs to work together and communicate to create sparks.
Camut uses recycled metals to create his sculptures and uses a lot of repurposed materials from scrapyards to keep the cost down. Even so, each machine costs about $500 to $1,000 to create and maintain.
“I’m like the mechanic for each piece,” Camut said. “Whenever you’re typing a paper on Microsoft Word, and you haven’t saved it and it quits, that’s what it feels like to (have) to redesign a sculpture.”