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Art People: Michael Tillyer|sculptor

  • Michael Tillyer with his work in the Anchor House gallery and studio.
  • Michael Tillyer with his work in the Anchor House gallery and studio.<br/><br/>
  • Michael Tillyer with his work in the Anchor House gallery and studio.<br/><br/>
  • Michael Tillyer with his work in the Anchor House gallery and studio.<br/><br/>
  • Michael Tillyer with his work in the Anchor House gallery and studio.<br/><br/>
  • Michael Tillyer with his work in the Anchor House gallery and studio.<br/><br/>
  • Michael Tillyer with his work in the Anchor House gallery and studio.<br/><br/>
  • Michael Tillyer with his work in the Anchor House gallery and studio.<br/><br/>

With a broom for his head and a piece of wood for his body, Dr. Sweep is clearly not human. And yet, the gentleman does have a certain presence. The pipe, the tie all askew, the slightly slanted broom bristles that suggest perhaps a crew-cut on top — it’s hard not to smile at this whimsical character.

“He just came together as what he is,” said Michael Tillyer, the artist who created the unusual psychoanalyst.

Near Dr. Sweep are several other figures made in a similar fashion. The Janitor’s Family — her head is a strategically placed dustpan — is close to life-size. Professor Push Broom, with his narrow face and tiny specs, rounds out the group.

The wood and broom sculptures, which were done over the last several years, are on view at the Anchor House of Artists in Northampton, a studio and gallery space that defines its mission as supporting and expanding the creative careers of artists living with mental illness; Tillyer is the organization’s founder and director. Though Tillyer, 60, is known for his role in advocating for the artistic endeavors of others, his own creative process has been a constant over many years and has led him to pursue both painting and sculpture.

Tillyer has often worked with wood, using carving tools and a torch to create shapes and curves, and a wire brush to bring up the grain.

The broom people were created out of chunks of a huge white pine tree near his Conway home that was felled as part of a road-paving project.

“I like the connectedness of using materials that are within my reach,” Tillyer said. He says he’s not sure exactly where the ideas for his artwork come from — but once he has his materials at hand, he focuses on how the elements will fit together.

“Composition is important to me, and I think I’m pretty good at it,” he said.

Dr. Sweep, for example, would look very different — and less lively — if his pipe had no smoke, which Tillyer fashioned from steel wool, curling from it.

“And the tie took time,” he said. “I knew it needed something to give it movement.” Instead of letting it lie flat, Tillyer used metal supports to give it a half-in-the-air, rumpled look. All aspects of a piece, he said, should combine so the end result says “precisely what you wanted to say as concisely as possible.”

— Suzanne Wilson

Michael Tillyer’s artwork is at Anchor House of Artists, 518 Pleasant St., Northampton. Hours are Wednesdays and Fridays from 3 to 5 p.m., and Thursdays and Saturdays from 2 to 5 p.m.

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