Bellingham sculptor Thor Myhre turns 'junque' into art

Bellingham sculptor Thor Myhre, whose motto is "Creating Solutions with Overlooked Resources," was a prime initiator of RARE, Bellingham's annual Recycled Art and Resource Expo, in 2012.

He's currently an interactive exhibits designer and maintenance technician at Mindport Exhibits in Bellingham. Here's how he became interested in all-things junk, or as Thor prefers, "junque."

Question: How did you become interested in recycling materials for art?

Answer: We grew up on a Montana farm in a house my Dad built from of a lot of reused materials. It featured handmade doors, tiles, a wooden bathtub and shower. It was like living in a sculpture and there was an old barn post in the center with lichen and a rusty pulley looking over a pond and mountains.

Q: Who encouraged you along your career path?

A: Like Bellingham, that area of Montana had many creative types, but one person who was especially encouraging in my high school years was Andrew Precht, a movie set designer for big budget films. He even helped me start a "save the grain elevator" campaign, which was an amazing architectural space slated for demo.

A few years later, Gregory Warmack, who goes by the moniker "Mr. Imagination," became another mentor and showed me the wonderful joys of inspiring children to create sculptures with "junque."

An internationally renowned artist with work in the Smithsonian and all around the world, he was also a great confidant to talk to about art biz. Most of my collection of his work is in Mindport's display window on Holly Street for RARE (Recycled Art and Resource Expo) coming up this weekend.

Q: How did RARE get started in Bellingham?

A: In 2011 Bellingham had half a dozen recycled art events, more than Seattle or Vancouver. Having worked with all of those events, I sent out the message, if we work together we could create an event that would draw an outside audience, dollars and press, which we did. My thinking was that if we could inspire people to be green without using shame or guilt, maybe we could open some people up to the idea.

Q: How do you feel about junk?

A: Junque with a capital J is much more interesting for me than working with new materials. It's gone through a life and if you study it closely, sometimes there's a cool story.

I love old farm implements that, through wear and tear, have taken on more character, kind of like the story of the "Velveteen Rabbit."

Q: What's your role at Mindport and what's fun about it?

A: Mindport hired me about six months ago, and my job feels like I'm an artist on salary position (which is rare! these days).

The art and science exhibits are amazing, the staff is ingenious with remarkable talents, and every week I meet somebody incredible.

The first question of my job interview was, "So, what do you want to do?" Right now I'm building a sort of percussion organ that uses air to push pingpong balls through clear tubing so you can make adjustable notes and rhythms that play out visually.

Q: What are some of the projects you are most proud of?

A: My 12-foot spider puppet made for the Procession of the Species Parade, which is now crawling on The RE Store's ceiling, is one project I like.

This summer I finished a one-ton, 10-foot sculpture the clients named Satori, a word that has a similar meaning to the Buddhist's definition of nirvana.

I'm also happy with the functionality of the sculptural bike racks at Chuckanut Brewery and the Beach Store Cafe. You can roll a bicycle toward the Lummi Island rack and it will park itself!

Q: What's up next for you?

A: I'm working with the Anacortes High School welding club to build a gate for the middle school's community garden. We'll have an opening ceremony at 2:30 p.m. on Earth Day (April 22).

Also, for downtown Anacortes, we have been looking for donations of industrial scrap to build an 18-foot-long bicycle with three riders and a propeller bouquet that represents alternative energy.

Q: What's fun for you about living in the Northwest?

A: I love the saltwater sound and its surrounding beauty, and living in such a creative community!


RARE workshops and events begin during the Downtown Art Walk at 6 p.m. Friday, April 4, and run through Saturday, April 5.

Thor Myhre's art is displayed at Make.Shift Art Space during April, with an opening reception during the Art Walk on April 4.


For more about Myhre, go to thormyhre.com or find Thor Myhre on YouTube or Facebook.

RARE Facebook page: Facebook.com/RAREBellingham.

Allied Arts RARE page: alliedarts.org/rare.

Mindport's website: mindport.org.