Robert Sadlemire and his Sadlemire Gallery exhibit a marriage of form and function

by Erin Balzotti – Photos by Carl Kerridge

So often we get caught up in our daily lives and don’t take the time to look around and see the treasures that are all around us. We have so many natural and cultural resources in our area that it is challenging to even keep up with them. One example of an unique cultural resource of which many may not even be aware of is the Sadlemire Gallery, a beautiful gallery where Robert Sadlemire creates and displays his amazing metal works.

The gallery is located on Seaboard Street in the heart of Myrtle Beach, is a truly unique workshop where Sadlemire brings creativity and functionality to seemingly cold and unforgiving metal. “It’s like a dance when it all comes together”, Sadlemire says. “It could be a big pile of stuff and no one knows what I’m doing, then all of a sudden it comes together. It’s a good feeling to complete a project.”

Sadlemire’s pieces range from grand staircases and immense gates to smaller pieces like beautiful sculptures and mirrors. Some of his most recent pieces include a dining room table that converts to a coffee table and a bar that suggest a waterscape. “I try to bring feeling to something that doesn’t have a feeling. I’m always trying to evoke some kind of subjective emotion into something that isn’t subjective at all,” Sadlemire explains. “Somehow there is a feeling behind the metal that I try to bring across; there’s actually some sensitivity to something that’s not suppose to be sensitive.”

Amazingly, Sadlemire’s sculptures manage to do just that: exude sensitivity in a way that is shocking because it is unexpected. “He puts so much emotion and so much of himself into his art,”: his wife Cathy says. “But he’s very much into the functional aspect of art. He wants things to be beautiful, but also useful. And he has endless ideas on how to [merge the two]. I’m always amazed at the volume of ideas he has.”

The abundance of ideas has given Sadlemire some freedom in his process. In the creation of a piece, he takes the time to get to know the client and the space in which the piece is to be displayed. “I pick up on your energy, see what kind of personality you have, and how free you really want to be with it, so I challenge myself, and there is a real trust thing that happens [between the client and myself].” But he is quick to add, “You’re always a little insecure because you’re always wondering if they are going to like it or not, but every client is different and I approach every project differently.”

Not only does Sadlemire have a gift for making metal look like pieces of fluid art, but he also has versatility. He has created custom bed frames, awards, garden sculptures, salon furniture, water fountains, benches, wall art and many other unique pieces. Although his repertoire includes a wide variety of works, Sadlemire’s main focus these days is on architectural installations. “I like the things you’re involved with – the things you participate with and are not just detached from>”

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Sadlemire’s pieces is that while they are all made of metal, they manage to look warm and inviting. “It’s about giving new breath to something that’s been around forever,” he notes. “I use my own technology and invent my own machines to identify with other problems that I want to work out mechanically. So, there’s the mechanical curiosity that I’m always satisfying. But it can be extremely subjective — that’s what’s so funny about it. There’s always a certain point when you solve the problem and at the same time it all looks fluid. It’s so pleasant when it all comes together.”

No matter,atter which direction Sadlemire takes his art, it is certain to always be unique and refreshing, dynamic and beautiful. Although one tends to think of steel and aluminum as cold and institutional, in his hands, it becomes a fluid and classic work of art.

“He doesn’t understand the meaning of can’t,” Cathy Sadlemire laughs. “If someone tells him he can’t do something, he finds a way to make it happen.”