Bruce Campbell | From Scraps to Sculpture


By Bonnie Gangelhoff
Photos by Dave Cox

When a friend of Bruce Campbell’s heard that a nearby Baptist church was being demolished that very day, he placed an urgent call to Campbell. The Colorado sculptor rushed to the scene to retrieve remnants from the rubble that was earmarked for the dump. Today, a visitor to Campbell’s studio can still see a pile of organ pipes stacked in his back yard.

And that’s not the only thing lurking in the scrappy sculptor’s yard. His 25-acre property on the edge of Boulder brims with mounds of debris—garage door springs, exhaust pipes, wheelbarrows, mailboxes, silo parts, satellite dishes, water heaters, hubcaps, truck fenders, fire extinguishers, oil pans, milk cans, and even the front end of a pink ’57 Chevy. “They all have quirky and odd shapes that can lead to wonderful art,” Campbell says of the so-called junk.

Where one person may see a rusted muffler, Campbell sees a piece of finely painted, elegantly shaped floor sculpture. Where someone else sees a junky old steel drum, this artist sees a playful piece depicting King Neptune for a children’s water park.


In fact, Campbell has an array of steel drums on his property—discards from a local bio-diesel company, which has been delivering them to him gratis for two years. Recently, when the company planned to build a new processing facility, they were so impressed with Campbell’s inventive, recycled reincarnations that they began talks with him about how to incorporate his drum sculptures into their new building.

And last year, when the University of Colorado at Boulder tore down the existing fine-arts building to build a new structure, a student group called Sustainable CU commissioned Campbell to create a sculpture from the building’s remains. He had the pick of the litter, so to speak, hauling away bricks, blocks of sandstone, and parts of a spiral staircase and railing. Campbell plans to transform the railing into a sculptural but functional bike rack, which is scheduled for installation later this year. From the staircase itself he envisions a piece called FLIGHT OF STAIRS, which will feature wings that serve as solar power collectors when suspended under a skylight. The kinetic sculpture is a project currently under consideration by an airport in Florida.

“I’m awakening people to the beauty and value of stuff we throw away,” Campbell says. “We darned near killed the planet producing some of this stuff. I just have this brief window of time on this earth, and I want to channel my creativity. I think it’s important to leave a contribution behind.”

Featured in July 2008