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TELL ME / A little Q & A

Scott Bye thinks of himself as a walking contradiction.

The Lockport-based sculptor combines salvaged objects into strange and often unexpected structures that seem to be at odds with themselves. His work can be seen in a solo exhibition opening Sunday in Niagara University's Castellani Art Museum.

His piece "Gas Tractor," for instance, is a sculpture that combines wheelchair wheels with a gas tank and a light bulb to create a strangely human figure that instantly perplexes the viewer. Which is exactly what Bye is out to do. He recently spoke to The News about his exhibition, his approach to sculpture and the inspiration for his work.

>I'm curious about how you came to sculpture in your art career. Why did it seem the most appropriate way to get out what you had to say?

I went to Finger Lakes Community College for fine art. I didn't just want to focus on one thing. I wanted to do everything, so sculpture was the only way that I could possibly do that.

I just got creative with objects, like a little kid -- how they take apart objects and look at them and move them around in different ways. They don't care how the object is supposed to be. They just move it around and make stuff with it. That really intrigued me to the point where I started making these machines and contraptions and started looking at the objects that are made in life and the purpose they were built for. I thought, there's more to these objects than what they're built for. You can turn them into anything that you want.

>What makes an object funny for you, or loaded with meaning?

When I go out and find objects, I look for character in them and how well-preserved they are. It's almost like going out and looking for antiques. I just always like putting two things together or making something that no one's ever heard of or seen anything like. I'm really into the dream world, and some of the things that happen in the dream life are completely uncalled for and unexpected, and I really get a kick out of that. I like oxymorons, how opposites attract somehow, and I like putting them together to make them attractive and make them work well.

>Do you have a vision in mind, or do you sometimes just put things together to see what you get?

I sometimes just put things together to see what I get. I started a project yesterday, where I have this wheelchair. I really, really wanted to do something with the wheelchair, but I didn't know what. And I was like, well, I'll flip this wheelchair around the other way and I'll stick this lawn chair on top of the wheelchair to see how they react together, and it was great. I ended up making one of those little taxi carts they have in like China and India [rickshaws]. I made one of those out of a wheelchair, a lawn chair and an old two-wheel pushcart.

>Contradiction is obviously huge in terms of the things that you make. Can you just talk about why that is and what makes it aesthetically interesting when two things are not supposed to go together? What does that do to the viewer?

I like to see it as kind of a slap in the face, like you're not expecting it at all. You walk up to a gallery and you're like, "What is that?" A questioning. People aren't familiar with it. They might be familiar with the objects that you use with it, but they don't understand what I just built with them. I think contradictions are humorous, too. I think people are so used to the everyday, normal routine of life, and to come across a contradiction, it's almost like a breath of fresh air.

-- Colin Dabkowski

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