Timm Duffy – Stargazer

Timm Duffy, one this year’s “Something New” sculptors, has had a 51-year career in the arts. His work, “Stargazer” is based on a neighbor who often viewed the stars in summer.

Aug 22, 2019 – by Bill Baran-Mickle

“I celebrate shapes, and surfaces. I reference stories and pathos. And cosmic principles. I hope the Creator endorses my moves.” 

Tim Duffy, from interview with Joel Coen, August 2013

Artist Timm Duffy is the creator of “Stargazer,” the bronze sculpture that now graces the sidewalk on Winslow Way as part of the second phase of the “Something New” sculpture-on-loan program initiated by the Public Art Committee in 2018.

“Stargazer” depicts a person standing, somewhat hobbled, and bending to look upward, toward the sky.  The surface is heavily modeled. Most would conjure up the stylistic modulation of Alberto Giacometti ‘s sculptures.  However, Duffy did not maintain one style, as he is a “texture” guy. His early influences had been David Smith, and Brancusi, among many others, but these things often grow and change over time. Yes, some of his work has been clean, reduction of figurative work, or full-on realism, but he continually tries new form and materials. He likes to think in terms of curves. Perhaps “Stargazer” is an example of a curve in time, a bustling of life, perhaps his own, stilled or contained in a block of bronze.  His personal story suggests as much.

Duffy’s parents were creatives at Rhode Island School of Design. He went to RISD too, earning a BFA in Sculpture with a minor in Filmmaking, and coursework in Ethnomusicology.  Sculpture would provide a base or background throughout his life, a profession spanning 51 years at this point.

In a good example of how a career can take unusual turns, Duffy moved to Colorado when he was around 22, taking an Artist in Residence job with the Mobile Arts Foundation. Always curious about materials, he dabbled with a variety of media, woodcarving to clay, to foundry casting. But he also was developing his interest in jazz. He wrote original music, recording with 4 record labels, produced and participated in another 15 CDs …so far.

But, at one point, around age 26, he wrote, produced, and staged a jazz festival at a new planetarium at the U of Colorado at Boulder.  An audience member introduced himself, realizing the multimodal skills Duffy brought to that show, and if he could help develop multimedia shows for theme parks. He took the leap, to California. He next took a remodeling job where he was asked to make a robot. Duffy, then 28, began doing sculptural fabrication for motion pictures for what became the Star Wars model shop and later moved into movie and television production design and art direction.  The career would be “sculptural fabrication for motion pictures,” and later movie production design, Art Department head, and such.

Duffy still made sculpture when he could. One year he was able to produce 12 bronze commissions. The film work for Universal Studios, Disney, PBS Masterpiece Theater, and others, took him from LA to Florida, to London to Hong Kong working on 24 films. He also worked as Art Director and Production Designer for television shows and commercials. There have been a number of other niche work as well, all utilizing his skills with tools, his understanding of materials, and a curiosity and vision for how they can be used.

Not long after completing a major 27-piece relief sculpture for the Orlando City Hall (Florida) Duffy tried to settle his life down and returned to Colorado. However, the next year he suffered a serious debilitating stroke, which necessitated brain surgery, he temporarily lost his speech, sight, and use of his left side. Rehabilitation took a good two years.  His speech and sight returned, but he only had modified use of his left arm. He has said he barely noticed that he created his sculptures with one arm. To bring his brain back, he enrolled in college courses again, earning another Masters, this time in Urban Planning.

There are yet more interesting stories of Duffy’s involvement in many things creative. However, the sculpture that visits Bainbridge this year was made around this difficult time in Duffy’s life. Many of Duffy’s sculptures are abstractions in clean curves or clear features. “Stargazer” is choppy, rough, and sculpturally impressionistic.  He says it was based on a neighbor who often viewed the stars in summer. But perhaps unknown to him at the time, it also captured the difficult diversion of life coming to him, through him, around that time.  The magic seen in the work could be his own curve in time, continuing to create no matter what comes.

Duffy moved to Shelton, WA in 2012. Much of this article has been gleaned from the information provided on Duffy’s website.

ABOUT BILL BARAN-MICKLE: Recently, Bill has enjoyed exhibiting in several international art biennial exhibitions. Of the three in which he has participated, he won Third Place for Sculpture from the European Confederation of Art Critics in the Chianciamo Biennale, at the Chianciano Art Museum in Italy in 2011, and First Place in Applied Arts in the London Biennale of 2013. In 2013 alone, he will have participated in eight exhibitions: from London to a two-person exhibition near home. In addition, Bill was asked to be a representative for CCAC’s exhibition celebrating 100 years of the Metals Department, and a mix of group shows in New York City, Miami, Seattle, and Las Vegas. Bill is the designer of the 10-foot Equitorial Bowstring Sundial located at the Richie Observatory in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island, WA, and completed in 2015.