Steel Artist in Focus : Bob Dylan Welded Gates
You could say that iron is in Bob Dylan's blood. Dylan grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota, a mining town built on the Mesabi Iron Range, the largest iron ore deposit in the United States. Hibbing was founded in 1893 on a spot where prospector Frank Hibbing proclaimed, “I believe there is iron ore under me; my bones feel rusty and chilly.” Looking for opportunities in the mining boom town, Dylan's maternal grandfather, Ben Stone, arrived nine years later. Between 1919 and 1921, after it was discovered that the best deposits of ore were located directly under the town site, the town was physically moved farther south by placing the buildings on rollers. At peak production, Hibbing was the source of at least a quarter of all iron ore extracted in the US, a fact which Dylan has mentioned in interviews and live show banter. “North Country Blues,” a song from Dylan's seminal 1964 album The Times They Are a-Changin', tells the story of an ailing mining town, clearly modeled on Dylan's childhood hometown. Bob Dylan's fixation on iron shows that his upbringing left an indelible mark on him.
This fascination has taken on physical form. Working out of a studio in Los Angeles, Bob Dylan has welded gates from scrap metal into intricate, beautiful visual art unlike any traditional iron gate you may have in your own yard. His favored form is gate work because he appreciates the negative space it allows him to work with. By welding these works of art from scrap iron and steel, Dylan resurrects the debris of an industry that was vitally important to the people he grew up with and the America he grew up in.