A Gentle Man with Authentic Creativity
My phone buzzes in my pocket recently as I get my morning going. This time from Instagram saying @BirdofPrey had just slid in my DMs. I had never heard of the account before but I opened it. Sounded hot.
I found out the person reaching out was Aiyana, daughter of a local artist, and was actually reaching out to give me a short story of who her father is and what he does, then asks to sit down for coffee. I was down to hear more, so I got in the car and met her in the back of Vacancy on PCH.
Sitting across from eachother, caffeine starting to rush through my veins, I start drawing a better picture of who the father-daughter marketing duo behind Bird of Prey was. Aiyana is soft spoked, overwhelmingly nice, she possesses a big appreciation for a 22 year old scrapping somewhat average words together and calling it a magazine, and is extremely fun to sit across from… bangs and all.
She tells me how she used to run her own collaborative artist network out of Chicago and that she’s really not a big fan of deep dish pizza. I tell her how I’m not either. Drove there and could not say I was impressed. Sorry if anyones a fan of it that’s reading this...
….Sorry that you like shitty pizza.
Aiyana is rad, but her dad is what we came to sit down about. We take a walk a block down the street after Vacancy to a corner house accompanied by an alley running around the backside of it.
We continue towards the back and watch as a creaking garage door rolls upward, while a man starts to take shape simultaneously behind it. First his flip flops, jeans, and upwards thereafter. I see he’s about my height, 5’10” on a good day, but he probably has me by a little bit. Dancing all over the walls around him are light reflections in all different shapes and sizes. They move, some light, some darker, all in their own style and choreography as the door reaches it’s resting point above our heads. I turn back to find a warm grin sitting on the face of Ralph Chandler.
Ralph is Aiyana’s father. He’s an artist and his work consists of sheets of different alloys that he bends and twists to his liking, some them holding succulents on your walls. Along with sculptures he creates through expressions of his life experiences, his mode of inspiration for his art pertains to his own life, it’s triumphs and downfalls, how those experiences mold you, and how that energy is refracted thereafter. He bends and molds sheets of copper and different alloys to create a reflection on a space around you and they’re extremely pretty.
Ralph started as a dentist PA in 1980 and still is somewhat today. He was working in Tucson, Arizona which is where a lot of his style has origins from. While working in dental he noticed that the same material they use to make jewelry was the material that was used to make crowns. This is the same material he now uses for most of his pieces today. The things Ralph composes are manifested and brought to life through the representation it holds for our time and the way we live.
Ralphs emotions raise and slowly stream down his face as he’s discussing it, “In life, we all catch energy surrounding us. No matter what it is, family troubles or triumphs, friends, shitty friends, good relationships, bad relationships, searching for our own meaning… the hits are endless. We reflect that energy how we absorb it and light is usually a symbol for hope...”. These metal sheels that Ralph bends represent that. Catching light and throwing it back into the world we live in, on the wall or across you… and it’s the same way we operate as individuals, hoping for light.
He pulls out a sculpture he built years ago, it has a solid cast-iron circular base that extends into a neck with a break through the middle. The break turns the cast-iron into wood and at the top of the neck there’s a nest-like structure holding a golden egg. Ralph goes on to explain as, “the base is what we’re built on and our desires. Whether we verbalize them or not, it’s what we believe life to be… strong, solid, individually who we are. The neck that breaks from there and turns into wood was actually recovered from a wildfire in Arizona. I included it to represent life’s 'fires' and experience life necessarily breaking us. Growth is derived from these moments. When everything falls apart, we build on it and that’s why the wood keeps extending to the golden egg at the top. The egg represents life, rebirth, and new birth. At the end of the day, no one ever wants to lose that, it’s something we instinctively strive for. We all have a thoughtful pursuit of what we desire out of life. So even without knowing what the eggshell is, we strive to give life to it,”. We’re all built on strength and moving in our own path with confidence is what all of us are meant to do.
A gentle man with an authentic expression of creativity shines through each project Ralph creates.
If you ever get the chance, check out Ralphs stuff @birdofprey.bronze on instagram or around, coffee shops and other little nooks of Newport.
As I leave my morning with Ralph and Aiyana standing beside him he says, “She’s my greatest sculpture though. My most proud and greatest creation above all else.”
Thanks for reaching out Aiyana and Ralph!