Ace Cuervo makes mind-bending shadow art
The photographer bends and melds metal to create images in light and shadow.
Ace Cuervo works on a piece of shadow art.
In bright light, the framed art is a rat’s nest of tangled metal. But when the room is darkened and a switch on the frame is flipped, an intricate design appears, like magic, on the wall inside the frame.
Children flying a kite. A motorcycle against the Tulsa skyline. A horse and her foal. All shadows.
“It goes back to my black-and-white photography days,” explains the self-taught photographer who spent seven years shooting for the Tulsa World before starting his own company. Cuervo also is a former special assignment photographer for TulsaPeople. “It was always about shooting the shadow more than the actual thing.”
A do-it-yourselfer, Cuervo learned how to weld his own steel photo frames about eight years ago. Then he started experimenting with adding metal scraps onto empty frames. He mounted a light above and wired the frame for electricity. Voila, an interactive piece of art.
A fan of Tim Noble and Larry Kagan, other artists known for shadow effects, Cuervo says his pieces are more personal; they’re meant to be hung in someone’s home. “I’m not reinventing anything, but I have yet to discover somebody doing this the way I do it,” he says.
Cuervo creates the pieces in his backyard shop, working in dim lighting to get the shadows just right. He creates some for charity auctions, but he has a waiting list for commissions. Many are given as gifts “for the person who has everything,” Cuervo says. Each piece takes 80-100 hours; prices start at $2,500.
Why laborious shadow art, out of all the artistic mediums Cuervo might have chosen? He enjoys a good DIY challenge. They’re puzzles, he says. “I do it because it’s fun, it ties into my photography, and I wanted to show myself I can do it.”