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The thing of it

When Sam Hefter looks at an object or thing, there's no telling what he'll see. While others may see a wrench as something to repair plumbing, Hefter does not share such dispositions.

"Objects somehow catch my eye," says the Rogue Valley artist. "I like to look at things and see the aesthetic. While this might bother more pragmatic people, I've never been troubled by it."

Hefter creates sculpture out of found pieces of driftwood, stone, plastic and ordinary objects from the kitchen. Other pieces he creates from sheet metal using a welder and rivets.

"Rivets are the most amazing little things," Hefter says.

Several of Hefter's pieces will be displayed indefinitely in the gallery space at Yesterday's Blossoms, 275 Theater Alley, Medford. The pieces range in size, style and in theme. There's one that features a gravity-defying stack of polished river rock, while others are made of cut sheet metal and represent female figures, icons or things — such as Hefter's giant cheese grater and whisk.

Hefter began working with metal, glass, and rock while he lived in Los Angeles and worked as a scriptwriter. He got the idea for his "Greater Grater" and his giant whisk from his children, when they were working on pop art projects in high school. When Hefter's colleagues liked the graters and whisks, he created several more of them. A few are displayed in restaurants in L.A.

Hefter and his family have resided in Gold Hill since 2005, and one of the 6-foot-high steel graters was displayed during the recent Italian Festival held at the Rogue Creamery, and another is hanging at the Medford Culinary Academy.

The eclectic pieces seem to be infused with whimsy and a message that art needs to be fun. Hefter has plans for more graters and whisks that will be powder-coated with bright colors.

Some of his newer work, however, is a bit weightier. He has three figurative pieces created from sheet metal and rivets that deal with the liberation of women, he says.

"They're like stuff that deals with the rights of humanity," Hefter says. "I'm finishing one that looks almost like the bars of a bizarre cell or jail, and there's a woman's hands reaching through.

"The most exciting thing for me happens when I'm working on a piece and it starts to take on a life of its own," he says. "I'm always rather surprised by the outcome."

Hefter's perceptions of objects and things may have been catalyzed by an earthquake that destroyed his family's home in Southern California. Hefter and his wife had to level the home and rebuild it themselves.

"I started looking at things differently," Hefter says. "Less materialistically."

Sometimes Hefter finds objects so visually stimulating that he keeps them until he can find uses for them, he says.

"It's just that not all of them have discovered what they want to be when they grow up," he says. "I like it when ideas fly out of them, and the pieces lend themselves to the shapes in my head."

E-mail samhefter@msn.com for more information.

Sculptor Sam Hefter poses with his pop art “Greater Grater.” - Bob Pennell