Some artists cast their sculptures in bronze. Others carve in rare Italian marble. Leo Sewell assembles his works of art from objects he finds in dumpsters, yard sales, and flea markets.
“I started out playing with junk and building out of junk. I picked trash on the curb, mostly,” says Sewell, whose art is collected in private collections and over 40 museums. “In the early ’80s, my second wife convinced me that it was okay to buy some of these pieces. That lead us to church rummages, yard sales, and flea markets.”
Sewell puts the objects he collects into sculptures of dogs and ducks, people and everyday things. He has a knack for putting exactly the right pieces together in exactly the right way to create a unified whole. “That’s my one skill in life,” he says too modestly. “I’ve made over 4,000 pieces. They are made from found objects, from the inside out, held together with fasteners. There’s no other thing than the objects and the fasteners.”
To find just the right ingredients for his collages, Sewell shops regularly at flea markets around his base of Philadelphia. “I figure I have walked by over 50,000 flea market tables,” he says. “In fall and spring, I go to three markets a week.”
Sewell was recently mentioned in an article on junkyard art in Salon, an online magazine. His art is currently on display at the Philadelphia EPA. The New York Daily News put together an online photo gallery of his work. His huge homage to the Statue of Liberty is on display at the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia.
But recognition has not turned this artist from his roots in the plastic, metal, and wood objects that have been used — and often broken — by others. “Flea markets are of great economic and ecological benefit. And they also offer a window into people’s lives,” Sewell explains. “A person can say what they want about themselves, but if you go through their trash, you really get to know them well.”
That insight informs his work, and it gives him an appreciation for the flea market. “It’s a great scene,” Sewell says.
For more information on the artist and his art, visit Leo Sewell’s Web site.