Artist draws inspiration from wood

NEWPORT BEACH — What Ed Hart does in his garage is no secret to his neighbors.

Wooden and fiberglass sculptures of bending and conceptual figures surround the cabin-like house on Redlands Avenue that Hart built 38 years ago. A totem pole-like figure greets visitors near the handcrafted door. Figures of dancers and curved abstracts are speckled among the lemon trees and bushes.

During the day, woodwork horses sit in the alley behind Hart's home, where the retired teacher works on his sculptures. Some of his creations nearly reach the roof; others are waist high.

Hart, 78, taught wood shop, art and math at a Garden Grove junior high school, but has spent the 18 years of his retirement creating.

He sketches ideas for future sculptures nightly, and when he visits family in Tucson, Ariz., his sketchbook travels with him in case inspiration strikes.

The garage, which used to fit two cars, now is filled with Hart's works — both paintings and wooden sculptures. He gave a third of the space back to his wife, Jean, about 20 years ago for her birthday.

The rest is covered in a fine layer of sawdust, and Hart's glasses are routinely fogged with a beige hue that belies his craft.

Unlike his wooden designs, the fiberglass figures stand around the house, spilling into the garden. A handmade black crow overlooks a patch of snow peas between the house and garage. Other figures are made with supplies from another hobby: gardening. A former tomato cage doubles as a dress for a female sculpture.

Hart sells many creations at galleries, but is hesitant to part with some of his fiberglass work.

"I enjoy them when I come out in the yard," he said.

For Hart, the materials alone motivate him.

"Just wood inspires me," he said. "You know, I love working with wood."

Although the twisting wooden shapes vary in color, Hart never uses varnish, instead choosing from more than 30 types of hard wood. He keeps a dust-covered list that outlines the different lumber from around the world.

His creations extend beyond the borders of Newport Beach. Pat McAnally, 75, of Tucson said she has several of her brother-in-law's creations.

"My three big pieces of sculpture are my pride and joy," she said.

Although Hart said none of his work has been ruined by termites — he keeps a close eye on the unfinished pieces — seven of his plum trees have been a fallen casualty to the pests.

Of his garage filled with his creations, Hart said, "I've always had things. Now I have more — but it makes life interesting."

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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