Man Vs. Wild: Finding Inspiration Where Humanity and Nature Meet


Ask Mark Baugh-Sasaki how long he’s been an artist, and his simple answer is, “Always.” The 31-year-old is a product of San Francisco, and so are his sculptures, which explore the hybrid landscape that results when the flora and fauna of nature collide with the steel and concrete of man-made creations.

“As a kid growing up in the city, I was fascinated by the urban environment and the concrete forms at places such as Fort Funston and Fort Cronkhite,” he says. “Today, I’m interested in the transformation point, that place where humans develop things in the natural world and how the birds, trees and plants survive—or don’t survive.” For his art materials, Baugh-Sasaki draws from both realms. While driving around town and hiking in the wilds around the city limits or in the Sierra Nevada mountains, he is constantly on the lookout for pieces of wood and stone to stow in his backpack and squirrel away in his Hayes Valley studio. Bit by bit, they will be joined with steel to become sprawling sculptures that, in his words, are “something out of science fiction.”

Baugh-Sasaki’s process involves writing about his experiences in nature to develop ideas, but nothing is fully determined until he straps on his welding mask and picks up his torch. Then he begins fusing stone, wood and steel, creating a small piece and then joining it to a larger one. When he’s done, many of his creations are as tall as the six-foot-five-inch artist himself.

With his work building a following—Baugh-Sasaki has exhibited in Seattle and New York, has completed a residency in France and will stage a show in San Francisco’s Alter Space Gallery this fall—the artist might be asked if he’s taking sides in the struggle between mankind and nature. He says, “My work isn’t really a commentary on the transformation; it’s an observation of a new world where nothing is fully wild and nothing is fully civilized.”

This was originally published in California Home + Design’s Winter 2013 issue. Click here to subscribe.

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