About Joe Coates

I learned to love working with my hands from my father, a pilot, who was also an accomplished mechanic and woodworker.  I was introduced to welding as a teenager by the aircraft mechanics at the local airport.  Initially, I welded to build and repair cars, but quickly became enamored with the amazing strength and beauty of welded metal structures and started welding for the sheer joy of the creative process.  My love of things mechanical led to a GM Scholarship in Engineering at Duke. While there, I met an Outward Bound instructor who introduced me to rock climbing, and I found another passion.  A few years later, my avocation became my vocation:  I began a 33-year career as owner / manager of The Trail Shop, Inc., one of the first climbing / outdoor recreation stores in the Southeast.  Meanwhile, I attended art and design classes at UNC–CH and started making art in earnest, using my engineering knowledge to explore strength and balance in sculpture.  Over the years, while otherwise occupied full time with work and raising two children, I’ve continued to make sculpture.  Now I am fortunate to be a full time artist.

Making sculpture fulfills my continuing desire for education, understanding, and communication. Sculpturing parallels my other passions of rock climbing, whitewater kayaking, and mountain biking.  In all these pursuits, my goal is to take myself physically where my mind has visualized going.  I strive to actualize imagined lines, ideas, and dreams, and add something new to our visual vocabulary.  Using my engineering proficiency, technical skills, and careful choice of media, I depict my visions by executing physical techniques, challenging my viewers to see media, scale, space, light, color, strength, and balance in new ways.  Each of my sculptures tells a story.  Sculpture educates, promotes new thought, and provides perspectives that permeate all facets of my life.