SUQUAMISH — They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
But if Edward Matlock has anything to say about it, beauty may be sitting unnoticed in the beholder’s basement.
Matlock, a soon-to-graduate student at Northwest College of Arts, has scoured construction sites, junkyards and alleys to find parts for his class sculptures, which have included a mechanical arm with pipe fittings with fingers and a robot with a motorcycle engine for a head.
Matlock doesn’t always have to search for parts. Sometimes they come to him.
“Once you get the word out that you’ll take old TVs, you wouldn’t believe how many you get,” he said.
Matlock, originally from New Mexico, first reached the Kitsap Peninsula when his father, who was in the U.S. Navy, was transferred to Keyport. After stints back in Albuquerque, N.M., and Seattle, Matlock ended up in Suquamish, where he studied drawing and painting at Northwest College of Arts.
But a January 2000 car accident in Seattle badly broke Matlock’s right arm. (The damage was so bad he needed a metal plate and 10 long screws installed). The right-handed Matlock couldn’t draw with his left hand, at least not right away.
“I had to turn in something,” he said. “So I decided to give sculpture a try.”
Matlock began gathering parts, most of them things he had around the house, for convenience’ sake.
A friend gave him a metal piece off an old semi truck, and Matlock noticed its resemblance to a limb.
So, helped by friends, he went to work: five pipe fittings became fingers, a TV remote control became a keypad, and — violá! — Matlock had a “replacement arm.”
Matlock created more sculptures. He found an apparently ancient film-projection stand, and when no one claimed it, he carted it home, turning it into the base of the robot with the engine head. The robot is pulling on a pair of plaster hands, which are modeled after Matlock’s own.
For another project, he took the X-ray of his badly broken arm and hooked it to an old streetlight he found at a rummage sale. Copies of Matlock’s medical bills completed the sculpture.
Matlock began to haunt construction sites and Seattle alleys for parts.
Items Matlock has sitting around right now include a chrome steering wheel; three full computers that he plans to pull apart for their parts; some ‘80s synthesizers that Matlock says “just scream spinal column,”; a pair of blenders, and a hair dryer.
Matlock collects more than parts: he collects friends who collect parts. One of his friends in Seattle recently acquired the door to an old CAT scan machine (“He’s going to make a chandelier out of it”). Another friend recently made a steal when he found a pair of booths from the diner where “Twin Peaks” was found. (The diner had burned down, but the booths had been spared.)
“I couldn’t make it,” Matlock said sadly, “or one of them would be mine.”
Matlock doesn’t always miss out on items; sometimes he has to turn them down. An acquaintance recently offered Matlock the use of a first-generation satellite dish, an enormous metal-and-mesh monstrosity more than 20 feet across.
Matlock reluctantly turned it down.
“I’m moving to the city, and that’s the last thing I need to move,” Matlock said. “But I thought of making a chair out of it, like one of the Japanese chairs with only one cushion. Can you imagine that?”