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One man's junk is another's art- Just ask sculptor Hardy Jones

By Linda Taaffe

Town Crier Staff Writer

What may seem like Fred's junkyard from the once popular television sitcom Sanford and Son is actually a place of peace and self-discovery for Los Altos resident Hardy Jones.

Jones considers his backyard collection of bent saw blades, rusty picks, broken plows and disassembled conveyor belts inspirational. For the past 17 years, the orthopedic surgeon has turned scraps of metal into sculptures he calls "junkyard art."

"When I'm working, I seem to discover my own energy," he said. "My stuff is like life-asymmetrical and amusing." Jones has always liked collecting junk. As a boy, he used to save nuts, bolts and other "found treasures," he said. But it wasn't until finishing a medical internship for Harvard University that Jones realized not only did he like healing people with his hands, but he liked creating things with them, too.

A birthday present of sculpting classes led to his enrollment in a welding class and it wasn't long before his pieces of junk became more than a mere collection of odds and ends. The door of a potbelly stove became the silhouette of a medieval warrior, an upside wok symbolized the back of a turtle and pruning shears appeared to be the ears of a dog named "Spuds."

"I never plan a sculpture," he said. "Everything 1 do is spontaneous. Each piece (of junk) has its own spirit and inspires me to create an entire work of art."

Today, Jones spends his spare time in a shed behind his house, as an artist. He still collects junk from almost everywhere he goes. He admits his rummaging sometimes embarrasses his children, but he can't seem to pass by a dumpster without peeking inside of it, he said.

When creating sculptures, Jones does what he calls "doodling," moving pieces of junk around until he likes the arrangement. His most recent sculpture, "Magic Fish" (located in front of the Los Altos Library), was inspired by an old pick. He began to arrange and rearrange picks and hoes until his sculpture was complete.

According to Jones, welding sculptures takes only a few days. Collecting the correct pieces seems to be the most time consuming part of his work. Finding the right piece has meant swiping the showerhead from his own bathroom, he said.

Though Jones has created more than 100 sculptures, he hasn't sold any. He believes creating sculptures should be for pleasure, not business. But many of his sculptures are scattered around Los Altos, including "Junkyard Dragon", a collage of Model T and tractor parts that won a 1992 Los Altos sidewalk art contest.

"Everyone is born an artist, but we tend to unlearn how to be creative in school," he said. "The key ingredient to art is inner joy."

So the next time you throw away an unwanted piece of junk, don't be surprised if you see it again as the face of a cat, the body of a hedgehog or the beak of a pelican in one of Jones' sculptures.

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