Artist’s Latest Series Inspired by 2019 Tornado

Tom Hoitsma’s ‘Heart of the Matter’ used neighborhood rubble for early sculptures

When Tom Hoitsma walked down Lavendale Avenue after the October 2019 tornado, he saw rubble, destruction, and the material for his next art series.

The Preston Hollow-based artist’s “Heart of the Matter” sculptures started a few years ago, and the early pieces were made from debris he collected the day after the tornado — mainly gutters, which he described as pliable aluminum.

“There’s a beauty to (the rubble),” Hoitsma said. “I’ve always felt that you see these images on television and there’s a funny beauty, a sculptural beauty to this destruction. It’s almost as if it’s on purpose.”

He brought the debris he collected to his studio, not yet sure what to do with it.

“Then I started thinking about using it as like a metaphor for the resiliency of the human spirit by creating some of these abstracted heart shapes,” Hoitsma said.

Once he ran out of the finite debris from October 2019, he started fabricating metals that mimic the original material.

Hoitsma and his daughter paced the neighborhood the day after the tornado when they encountered a pin-quiet Preston Hollow with no animals, cars, or humanity in sight: “The neighborhood was just destroyed. Homes (were) completely gone.”

“You see this stuff on television, but to walk it is a whole other thing,” he continued. “It’s really very disturbing, surreal.”

On that walk, they met a couple standing near the site of what once was their home. Hoitsma describes their aura as joyful and euphoric, despite having their home torn from above their heads the evening before.

“That got me thinking,” Hoitsma said. “We hear these stories all the time about triumph from tragedy. … It’s not like I have been without challenges, but this is a different level when you lose all the stuff: your entire family history and home. What do you do? Where do you go?”

Hoitsma fabricates the metal, then treats, sands, and primes it, and then coats it in automotive paint to add some shine.

“(I’m) taking this tortured metal and making it as beautiful as possible — beauty from tragedy,” Hoitsma said. “The finish is important, this idea of it just really buffed up.”

The pieces are weatherproof, and Hoitsma works with local designers and homeowners to commission pieces for indoor or outdoor spaces.

Some purchasers are people who were affected by the October 2019 tornado, and others are people who have experienced other traumatic events “and want something to (be) a representation of that or their connection.”

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