“Since I was a little kid, I’ve always taken everything apart,” says Ryan Gregory, a local found-object artist, junkyard engineer, and musician who is also known as, “Mr. Creepy.” “The best way to figure out how things work is to take them apart,” he continues, explaining how his interest in reverse engineering somehow turned into an artistic outlet.
Ryan has always enjoyed science and engineering, having made his own primitive weed-whacker when he was only six years old and consistently taking motors and batteries out of his toys and making other things with them. “I was trying to figure out how everything worked together,” he says. And he had the perfect environment in which to explore, thanks to his grandfather who collected random objects in his house and let Ryan “mess around” with anything he wanted to. This skill, combined with his distinction as a Halloween Baby, creates the perfect combination of “eerie” and “cool.”
“I recycle stuff that I find interesting, or objects that seem to have their own story. I like using it for something other than what was intended.”
– Ryan Gregory
Ryan grew up in Clio, and started coming to Flint for the Genesee Area Skill Center and the Local 432. In addition to creating found-object art, Ryan is also a musician who makes his own instruments and performs with his friends. As Mr. Creepy, he wears strange masks and marches through random local bars. “I like eerie sounds and sights. I like mystery,” he says, adding that he used to drive a hearse. “It was an awesome nightmare. Being a Halloween Baby probably has something to do with it,” he jokes.
Ryan did some art in high school in addition to spending time at Red Ink Flint, where he began creating shadow boxes made out of large, ornate picture frames and other found objects. “I like objects that look worn and have evidence of heavy use,” Ryan says. “I recycle stuff that I find interesting, or objects that seem to have their own story. I like using it for something other than what was intended.”
This practice is evident with his most recent piece – an interactive, mechanical horse sculpture that is being exhibited at Art Prize in Grand Rapids from September 21 to October 9. The piece, entitled, Equus Pegasus Machinamentum, is constructed from bike tires, pieces of wooden furniture, trampoline springs, an old gas line, and miscellaneous other scraps that he recycles; things that he finds, and sometimes things that other people give him. The horse statue is the first piece in which Ryan used welding to build it, and it took many months to complete.
With most of his creations, there is a good amount of trial and error in discovering what things will fit together, but when it happens, it’s incredible. “I love to take parts from two completely different things that you’d never see together, and find that they fit together and work perfectly,” he shares. “I love when that happens.”
Ryan’s house, backyard and garage are part studio/part workshop, and organized into perfect chaos, with stacks of random metal and wood pieces, piles of broken piano keys, various types and sizes of bicycles – some he can ride around town, like he did at Art Walk; but others are reserved strictly for scraps; scraps that he occasionally will fabricate, grind and chop into something interesting for the eye to view.
“Flint is a place with a lot of things that can be recycled,” Ryan says. “The resources that I use for my work are just overwhelmingly available. So much so that I’m living like this. I’m waiting for someone to come by and take pictures and report me to Hoarders. I haven’t decided yet if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.”
Along with his involvement in Flint’s art community, Ryan’s experience has branched out to different places where he learns from other artists and can display his artwork; he has attended Maker Faire in Detroit and Lakes of Fire – a Great Lakes Region official Burning Man Event held near Muskegon.
“I met so many people, and everyone had pretty much the same mindset as me,” Ryan says of his experience there. “We all have common interests. It’s really cool.”
Once the excitement and frenzy that is Art Prize winds down, Ryan hopes to make more horses and maybe try some wind-driven pieces. And luckily, he doesn’t have to travel far to be around greatness. “I’ve definitely seen some of the most interesting artwork around Flint,” he says. “There are a lot of awesome people in this community.”
Photography by Eric Dutro