Federico Uribe's socks are hanging at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
They're among the hundreds of sock "leaves" hanging on his 25-foot-tall tree, which, after almost a year in the museum's rotunda, will be taken down August 11th. The tree and other Uribe creations are part of the museum's Rotunda Projects series.
"I used some of my socks and my assistants' pants, my assistants' socks, and [clothing from] people who work in my studio," says Uribe, who was born in Colombia but now lives in Miami.
- Federico Uribe’s colorful artwork, made from repurposed items, is on view at the Brooks Museum through August 11th.
His idea? "I thought about the tree of hard life."
The tree bark is made from khaki pants. "Somehow my idea came from the idea of making an homage to people who work with their hands," he says. "Manual work."
Most of the socks are white ones from Goodwill. "We painted them green," says Uribe. "Also, pants from Goodwill and Salvation Army. New socks. Used pants."
His tree also "talks about the neighborhood and the projects," he says.
It includes shoes, which stand for gang members' shoes. "If a gang takes territory from other gangs, they take their shoes and hang them on electrical lines. They hang the shoes they took from the enemy."
Uribe painted when he was younger, but, as he got older, he stopped painting and started "playing with objects."
His first sculptures were made of "very small objects — toys and things I found on the streets in Mexico."
These included "plastic forks, baby [bottle] nipples, toys, doll hands," he says.
Later, he began using other objects. He made a landscape out of remote controls. The piece stands for "a city under control."
Uribe also made a statue out of screws after he heard the expression "getting screwed." He made a donkey out of suitcases, which he calls The Immigrant. Uribe also created whimsical animals out of bullets and shotgun shells.
"Art schools don't teach you how to do stuff," Uribe says. "You have to figure that out. I have to create my own technique for every object I create.
"To me, it's all my private thing. People get it or they don't get it. I don't really care. It makes me smile when I realize these ideas."
As for fame and fortune, Uribe says, "I don't really like the public part of my life. I don't enjoy that at all. I like my studio. I like it quiet. I listen to books."
And, he says, "I'm interested in making enough money to produce my own dreams and that's it."
Uribe currently is working on a sculpture of a woman, which he's making out of surgical instruments. It's "about people who have thousands of plastic surgeries thinking they look better," he says. "And they take selfies and publish it on Instagram and all this bullshit. It's not a criticism, just a fact of life."
He sees so much plastic surgery in Miami. "Fake asses, noses, and waists. And it's all built by a doctor. So then they think they're happy."
The title of the piece will be Selfie Esteem.
When he's not working, Uribe loves to grow flowers. "Flowers bring butterflies," he says, "and butterflies bring lizards."
Uribe says, "I work with a purpose of beauty.
"I like the idea of people smiling at my work when they see it. I don't want to teach people that life is hard. Everybody knows that. I'm trying to tell them that beauty is out there. There is beauty in bullets, in medical instruments, in remote controls, in screws. There's beauty everywhere if you're looking for it."