Junkyard Art

Cardinali invented a story to accompany his sculpture of a skeleton angel.

Driver Sonny Cardinali looks at trash and sees treasure.

About five years ago he took his love of welding and applied it in his free time to creating art from junk parts he had lying around. Today his hobby has turned into a second career.

Cardinali, of Milford, Conn., spends most of his time driving a straight truck and van for Airborne Express. But when he isn’t working, he takes an hour on weekdays, a Saturday morning or a rainy Sunday morning (he rides his motorcycle on good-weather Sundays) to weld motorcycle and junk parts together into metal sculptures for outdoor display.

Most of his subjects are birds, although he has also made a few trees and people, including a line of stick people fencing, which he keeps along his property line. The works usually remain unpainted.

When Cardinali started, he gave away much of his work, but after a while, his wife and a friend suggested that he start selling them.

“I didn’t think they were saleable items, so I kept giving them away,” Cardinali says. “Then my wife went to an art show and brought me a brochure and price list of a sculptor that does similar work. At that point I thought I would try selling my work.”

Cardinali first brought his work to the Gilded Lily Gallery in Milford, a gallery that showcases and sells hand-made pieces of art such as pottery and sculptures.

Rosemary Celon-Gordon, the owner of the Gilded Lily Gallery, says most of the works in her gallery are from local artists, and Cardinali was referred to her gallery. After looking at some of his works, she decided to showcase some of Cardinali’s pieces.

Cardinali uses his spare time to weld metal parts into sculpture.

“[I show] what I feel is nice and what I think people would want to buy,” she says.

Celon-Gordon says Cardinali’s works, including a dragonfly garden stake, became fairly popular, and many of them are purchased to be put into gardens or in the home. She still has a few of his works on display and for sale.

Partner Insights
Information to advance your business from industry suppliers

“More and more people are starting to appreciate it and buy it,” she says.

Celon-Gordon described Cardinali’s work as “whimsical, primitive, nice and folk-artsy.” His garden stake seems to demonstrate all those descriptions, as he used decorative spoon handles for the wings, a lag bolt for the body, and ball bearings for the eyes.

Other Cardinali works however, Celon-Gordon said, take some close examination to determine the parts used in their creation.

“You really have to look at them in the piece to figure out what [the parts] are,” she says.
One such random object used in one of Cardinali’s pieces, she said, was an old turnbuckle from a subway.

Cardinali’s “Harley bird” is comprised entirely of Harley Davidson parts. Its body is a sprocket, its wings made from primary chain, the head from a license plate bracket, the legs from rear brake shoes and the tail from a dashboard inner plate.

A robot sculpture was pieced together from motorcycle suspension parts and automobile brake pads.

He’s also sculpted a golfer out of a wheel rim and various car, truck and motorcycle parts.
Cardinali’s various bird sculptures use parts such as hoops from a wooden barrel, a sickle (for the beak, of course), the inner tank of a household water heater and steel rods.

Cardinali welded this dragonfly garden stake from old spoons and other discarded parts.

In addition to being featured in galleries and nurseries in Connecticut, his work is also displayed at The Starving Artist and The Focal Point galleries in City Island, N.Y. He said during trips to New York, he often stops in Massachusetts or upstate New York to talk to sculptors who have been sculpting for more than 30 years.

Although birds are a main theme of his work, his pi

The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
Overdrive editors and ATBS present the industry’s best manual for prospective and committed owner-operators. You’ll find exceptional depth on many issues in the 2022 edition of Partners in Business.
Partners in Business Issue Cover