Epiphanies and Post-it Notes go together like Picasso and paintings with unusual eyes. Sculptor Roger Finch keeps Post-it Notes handy for quickly recording ideas that arrive like unexpected guests desiring the attention of a preoccupied host, who, in his case, might be disengaged from active creativity. “A lot of my work is done while I’m sleeping,” he muses, describing his tendency to scribble out those random thoughts in the middle of the night.
Though an artist now, in the fullest meaning of the word, Finch’s style evolved as he grew into himself, as he learned to listen to what he had to say instead of following the lead of sculptors he read about in art texts. Fascination with mechanical objects revealed itself when, at the age of 3 or 4, he found a screwdriver and systematically removed, then replaced, the knobs on the steam radiators in his boyhood Michigan home. As his penchant and ability expanded to disassembling and reassembling all manner of mechanical devices, the idea that he should go into engineering climbed up on the dining room table and sat there plump and obvious. But alas, calculus thwarted that plan.
In 1978, following stints as an aircraft mechanic, a mechanical designer and an industrial arts teacher, he built his first metal sculpture, “The Golfer,” which he moved with him from Maryland to Augusta about a year later. It stands, along with another early sculpture, “Rising Circles,” on the grounds of his 7000-square-foot Hephzibah studio.
After years of art classes at Augusta State University, resulting in a bachelor of fine arts degree, and more study at Georgia Southern University, leading to a master of fine arts degree, Finch knew a great deal about art and artists. But he still didn’t know the first thing about his own art. “You have to figure out what turns your own crank,” he says.
Turn the crank. Wrestling his way through a heap of scrap metal, Finch finally found himself. That little boy with the screwdriver and intense curiosity crawled from the rubble and shook hands with the man he had become. A winsome blend of mechanics and creativity mushroomed into Mirabella-Finch Studio, where he produces both inspired and commissioned pieces.
Using tools far more powerful than a simple screwdriver—welders, drill presses, metal lathes, cutoff saws, overhead lifts—he constructs sculptures as compact and confounding as the 18-inch “Reuleaux Triangle,” with its gearless transmission, a fixture in his private collection, and as large and as playfully interactive as the 16-foot “Honest Weight,” with its pulley, gears and working scale, located at Sutherland Mill in Augusta. “Much of art is an illusion,” Finch says. “I want people to experience the reality of my art physically.”
He engineers beautiful objects—not only mechanicals, but also sphericals, sundials, racers, bottle trees and tables—that mesmerize the mind and speak to the spirit. “I don’t know where I’m going,” he admits, “where the pinnacle’s going to be.” But he definitely has discovered the artist within.