Image of metal sculpture, Icarus, by L. Brent Kington, 1981
by L. Brent Kington, mild steel, polychromed, 1981

Southern Illinois’ most well-known blacksmith-artist-teacher, Brent Kington (1934-2013), created unconventional works of art from blacksmithing for over 45 years while teaching at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Illinois State Museum curator Debra Tayes wrote in her 2008 essay, “Mythic Metalsmith,” Kingston was “recognized as a key figure in the mid-twentieth century American Craft Studio Movement.” In the early 1970s, Kington single-handedly revived blacksmithing as a major art form in America with his national conferences held at SIUC.

In the early 1980s, Kington began exploring his Icarus series. Each sculpture is carefully balanced on an almost needle-like point, creating a counter-balanced structure of steel that will waft slowly on the gentlest of breezes. The static mask form itself suggests flight. Again Curator Tayes: “Kington captured the essence of the Icarus myth—the desire for flight—combining it with his strong interest in tribal and ethnic masks and associative color palettes.” The long nose on the mask’s face signified Kington’s autobiographical sense of humor.