International Iron Tribe Exhibit Showcases Contemporary Cast Iron Art

February 20, 2015


Fine arts professor David Lobdell stands with his cast iron art piece “Binary Mandala.” Lobdell established Iron Tribe at Highlands in 2001.
Photo: Margaret McKinney/Highlands University

Las Vegas, N.M. – Leading international and national contemporary iron artists are featured in an art exhibit at Highlands University that is part of Iron Tribe 2015, an iron art conference March 5 – 7 that is open to the public.

The Iron Tribe exhibit is in the university’s Burris Hall Gallery, 903 National Ave. The closing reception is March 6 from 4 – 6 p.m. The international artists hail from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Estonia, Japan and Canada. Stateside, artists range from New York to New Mexico to California.

“This Iron Tribe exhibit of 60 professional artists could go to any city in the world and be recognized as a very thoughtful, dynamic and beautiful exhibit,” said fine arts professor David Lobdell, who founded the biennial Iron Tribe in 2001. “The artists are very diverse in their aesthetic and approaches to iron art, with the pieces ranging from conceptual to industrial. It’s a multimedia show, with paintings, large-scale photographs, and videography depicting the dramatic intensity of iron casting.”

New to Iron Tribe this year is a performance iron art form called Dashuhua that originated in ancient China during the Festival of Lights. Molten metal is flung against a wall to burst into a spectacular display like fireworks.

The Dashuhua performance will be March 5 from 6 – 8 p.m. in the parking lot at the northwest corner of 7th Street and Douglas Avenue.

“My Iron Tribe Exhibit Design class is building a 20-foot plywood wall on scaffolding for this performance. We’ll be melting 1,000 pounds of metal in our furnace to roughly 2,400 degrees for this iron throw. It’s like seeing a raining firestorm of molten metal,” Lobdell said.

Rian Kerrane is a noted cast iron sculptor from Ireland who exhibits at Iron Tribe each year and will present on the international panel. She is a fine arts professor at the University of Colorado – Denver, where she heads the sculpting program.

“Iron Tribe functions as a fertile ground for artists, academics and students to come together and exchange ideas, and I love bringing my students for the concentrated learning environment it provides,” Kerrane said. “David Lobdell is both a leader and catalyst who has done so much to advance iron art in the contemporary art world both nationally and internationally.”

Lobdell, also an internationally known iron artist, was the founding president of the Western Cast Iron Art Alliance in 2008 and currently serves on the board. He said the common thread for iron artists is the blast furnace that brings them together to melt metal for their cast pieces.

“Iron art casting has a strong primordial element that connects us to the universe. When we see a shooting star, that’s a hunk of iron ignited in the sky,” Lobdell said.

The Iron Tribe exhibit also features four sculptors who graduated from Highlands in fine arts: Aaron Juarros, Isaac Sandoval, Lance Wadlow, and Matt Eaton. Fine arts professor emeritus Harry Leippe, who established the first art foundry at Highlands, is also featured.

Las Vegas artist Kim Reed-Deemer’s paintings of iron artists at work fill one wall.

Other public Iron Tribe events include:

International Panel Discussion – March 6, from 1:30 – 4 p.m., in the university’s historic Ilfeld Auditorium, 900 University Ave. Presenters include Rianne Kerrane, University of Colorado – Denver; Coral Lambert, Alfred University; Aaron Schmidt, Colorado Mesa University; Matt Wicker, Rochester Institute of Technology; Vaughn Rendall, State University New York – Lansing; Toby Flores, Fort Hays State University and John Hachmeister, University of Kansas.

“All of these presenters have distinguished careers as iron artists and art professors,” Lobdell said.

Production Casting Session, March 7, from 9 a.m. until completion, Highlands University art foundry, 914 11th St.

For more information about Iron Tribe, contact Lobdell at 505-454-3570 or