Lee Sauder

In 2000, sculptor and art professor Steve Bickley was working
collaboratively with Bill Reynolds, professor of material science
and engineering at Virginia Tech. Their work was part of the
innovative interdisciplinary programs that Tech’s Art and Art
History Department was advancing in the Science and Technology
Colleges. Aware of the interdepartmental work going on at
Tech, I simultaneously — and fortuitously — learned of
Lee Sauder’s artwork when I saw one of his “burn”-imprinted
framed works on paper in a Lexington art gallery and asked
the owner how I could meet the artist. As it turned out, Sauder
worked very close to other Lexington friends. He had taken
over Larry Mann’s blacksmith shop on McLaughlin Street —
which earlier had been one of Cy Twombly’s studios —
and was making custom forged wrought iron gates and railings.
When I visited him in 2001, he was working at the forge.
It struck me that the process of working forged iron not only
was vividly beautiful but had a special cultural legacy in rural
America and the Appalachian region in particular. Sauder had,
in fact, written an informative narrative about the technical
elements of “bloomery” iron forging as well as its local
cultural relevance.1