The Business of Surviving As an Artist: John Medwedeff

by - January 12, 2016

The Business of Surviving As an Artist: John Medwedeff
Tuesday, January 26, noon-1pm
Memphis College of Art
Rust Hall
Callicott Auditorium
1930 Poplar Avenue

Memphis College of Art presents John Medwedeff, a nationally recognized metals sculptor and owner of Medwedeff Forge & Design, as the next artist in MCA’s Visiting Artist lecture series. Medwedeff will present a lecture titled The Business of Surviving as an Artist on Tuesday, Jan. 26 from noon–1 p.m. in Callicott Auditorium of Rust Hall, 1930 Poplar Ave., Overton Park. The lecture will provide information about business practices for artists and applying for public art commissions, and will be followed by a brief question and answer session. Medwedeff will also discuss his experiences creating large-scale public art sculptures. During his campus visit, Medwedeff will interact with graduate students in their studios and host group discussions with both undergraduate and graduate students.

Medwedeff first began working with metals after taking a blacksmithing class at the Memphis Academy of Arts (now MCA) in the early 1980s. “With my first hammer blow on hot iron, I recognized the connection between metalsmithing and sculpture,” said Medwedeff. After disagreeing with the Art Academy director at the time over his blacksmithing efforts and its future in fine art, Medwedeff began attending the University of Memphis. While enrolled at the University of Memphis, Medwedeff applied for and was accepted into an internship program at the National Ornamental Metal Museum, only a few years old at the time after opening its doors in 1979. Medwedeff eventually completed his BFA degree at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale in 1986, and also earned his MFA degree there in 1991.

After finishing his education, Medwedeff opened a studio in Murphysboro, Ill. and began producing large-scale sculptures for both public and private commissions. His work is inspired by waterways, plant life and the general outdoors, and maintains a harmonious relationship between form and function. “The large scale sculptures, while not necessarily forged, are driven by my blacksmith’s desire to reshape the metal and make the surfaces my own,” said Medwedeff. “The decorative art pieces blend my creative vision with utilitarian purpose, and to that end I find a beautiful symmetry between form and function.”

Notable sculptures completed by Medwedeff include a sculptural arch for the Illinois State Fairgrounds completed in 1996; a shade structure titled “Whirl” in the Mississippi Riverfront Park, commissioned by the City of Memphis through the UrbanArt Commission in 2001; and “Apex,” a bronze sculpture commissioned in 2013 by the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Ill.

All MCA Visiting Artist lectures are free and open to the public. For more information, visit

Photo: John Medwedeff, “Confluence”, 26.5’ x 9’ x 19’, steel, Nashville, Tenn., 2014

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