Where most people look and see junk, Jimmy Descant sees ingredients in his own particular recipe for magic. “I can recycle just about anything,” the sculptor says. “I’m always picking up rusted bits of metal off the street. They’ve been used and abused and have deteriorated over the years, but to me, they come out looking beautiful.”
Descant is best known for the rocket ships he fashions from cylindrical objects that date from roughly the 1930s to the 1950s. The objects can be vacuum cleaners, thermoses, pen-lights, and at their tiniest, lipsticks. He reinvents them with lights, planets rendered from super balls, jewelry, pieces of coffee pots, figures from trophies—anything that strikes his fancy.
He started about eight years ago, with a 1952 vacuum cleaner he found at the Jefferson Highway Flea Market. He felt so moved after reincarnating his find into its true, space-age self, that he abruptly left his 10-year career as a tour manager for big-name rock acts and took up sculpture full-time. “Everybody’s eyes bugged out,” he says, adding, “My first year I made one sale for $200. But I was doing what I loved.”
Although he once worked as a tack welder at Avondale shipyards—part of a series of odd jobs he held after high school—he constructs all his pieces using hardware, often disassembling his more complicated raw material before putting it back together, utterly transformed. “It’s all nuts and bolts,” he says. “It’s a very intense puzzle of finding things that have never seen each other before, but fit together perfectly, metaphysically and physically ... It all has to be planned out so it looks like it was never apart.” •
This article appears in the May 2005 issue of New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles