—Arshia Simkin, The Underline
Ryan Rakouskas is a junior at Cedar Ridge High School in Hillsborough. His burgeoning sculptures of nature and media-inspired metal works range from spiders; fish, including a hammer head shark made from an actual hammer; praying mantises; and birds such as ducks, herons, and storks. He is also inspired by movies and video games and has made sculptures of fantastical creatures, such as the affectionally termed “Wrenchzilla” which resembles a growling alien-dinosaur hybrid. The sculptures are made from tools including wrenches, nuts, bolts, nails, and other metals. “They’re kind of mismatched looking; it’s all random recycled pieces that I go out and stick together,” Rakouskas said. More recently, Rakouskas has started to make abstract pieces, such as a geometric plant holder displayed at the Margaret Lane Gallery in Hillsborough.
Rakouskas was first introduced to sculpting when he took a welding class in his freshmen year: “I had a great teacher and I really got into it, so I eventually bought my own welding machine and just started making stuff,” he said. His first piece was “supposed to be a deer,” he recalled. “It was just nails and it looked awful. It was just some stick-figure looking thing that I pieced together in the back of workshop when I probably wasn’t supposed to be doing it, but I just pieced it together and was like ‘huh, I think I could make some more stuff like this if I worked at it a little more.’”
Rakouskas’ art is inspired by the materials he sources—all of which he tries to ensure is recycled metal: “I’ll sometimes just walk around the woods…[or] go to friends’ houses and rummage through their garages…and just grab things they don’t need. Scrap yards too—there’s a lot of steel everywhere that people aren’t using.” He noted that the ideas for the actual piece will occur most often when he’s not actively thinking about the project.
I asked Rakouskas if he had any advice for a beginning artist and he said: “Just start making things. That, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.” He recalled taking some pieces to the Raleigh Flea market with the expectation that nothing would sell and being pleasantly surprised to sell out of almost everything. His work is also represented by Margaret Lane Gallery in Hillsborough. Owner Mary Knox has provided Ryan a space to sell his pieces on the front lawn of the gallery, and has been impressed with Ryan, his artistry, and the amount of pieces they’ve sold.
Rakouskas also accepts commissions and has done projects such as a dinosaur and a large dragonfly for customers.
You can learn more about Rakouskas’ art at https://www.instagram.com/r.r.welding/ and see his work on display on the front lawn of Margaret Lane Gallery.