Bob Dylan: ‘I’ve been around iron all my life’

Bob Dylan works on iron sculpture. Herald Scotland

Bob Dylan works on an iron sculpture. Halcyon Gallery


(POST UPDATED 11/18/2013) — Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, raised up north in Hibbing on the Mesabi Iron Range. Much is made of his relationship with his hometown. He, like many Iron Rangers in the 1950s, left and built a life elsewhere. Bob Dylan’s life so happens to include five decades of tremendously influential music. Though he has returned several times to visit family, it was only in the last ten years that he began to speak openly of how the region shaped his perspective.

Dylan is also an artist, with several well-regarded works to his name. Lately, Dylan has been crafting iron sculptures. A recent story in Herald Scotland profiles Dylan’s new medium, where a particular quote caught my eye:

“I’ve been around iron all my life ever since I was a kid. I was born and raised in iron ore country – where you could breathe it and smell it every day. And I’ve always worked with it in one form or another.”

Dylan’s show, entitled “Mood Swings, opens in London this November. He’s been working with gates.

“Gates appeal to me because of the negative space they allow. They can be closed but at the same time they allow the seasons and breezes to enter and flow. They can shut you out or shut you in. And in some ways there is no difference.”

For Bob Dylan fans and fans of the arts back here on the Iron Range, a gate of understanding may have just opened. We’ll have something special to talk about at Dylan Days 2014.

UPDATE: Just days after being named to the French Legion of Honor, Bob Dylan’s ironworks exhibit opened at the Halcyon Gallery in London this weekend.

I was impressed with some of the additional photos of Bob Dylan working in his Los Angeles studio. Just at a glance, it looks like the kind of set-up that any Iron Range tinkering retiree would envy:

Bob Dylan working in his sculpture studio.

Bob Dylan works in his Los Angeles studio, where he crafted the iron sculptures and gates on display in London. Photo via BBC.

UPDATE (11/20/13): And if all this wasn’t enough, Halcyon Gallery’s description of the exhibit on its website is now dedicated completely to Dylan’s Iron Range roots:

Growing up in Hibbing, in an area of Minnesota known as the ‘Iron Range‘, Bob Dylan was surrounded by the influence of industry during his childhood in the region: the hulking machinery and huge workforce going to and from the mines; the truckloads of taconite rock and rust-coloured haematite ore being driven down to the port. These are the kinds of images that would tattoo themselves on to an impressionable young mind – images of a world where raw materials and man-made objects were bound by the grass roots of production.

The influence of iron and nature on Bob Dylan’s youth is also the juxtaposition contained within his Gates: the material of the structures and the division of landscape that they represent. These works allow you to see what lies behind them, while at the same time barring your path – although not with a sense of confinement, but as a signifier of a change of scenery, a doorway, a symbolic entry point to a new world. With their symbolic potential, the Gates reveal a reverence for the past, for industry and agriculture of the kind now being consigned to the past in our developed world. As opposed to the relentless march of technology, the artist’s faith is still in the soil and the hand and the tool.


  1. Bob has put Hibbing and the Iron Range firmly on the map. Thanks, Bob!

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