Darlene Kerns has always been mechanical. “My dad had me working on cars when I was a little girl,” she says. In fact, her dad told her if she couldn’t fix it she couldn’t drive it—great incentive to learn. Darlene’s first job was working in an auto body shop.
“Metal art is all I do now,” Darlene says, and she’s been able to make a living with her art. She mainly works with oxy- acetylene because most of the metal she works with is recycled. For anything over 1/32-in. or for functional pieces for structural support, she MIG welds.
In welding Darlene has found an inner purpose. “I’m blessed to be able to bring happiness to people with my metal art creations,” she says. Darlene is also part of a loving and supportive community; her welding buddies are always giving her scrap metal. “I think more women would weld if they were given the opportunity and encouraged to. I’m grateful that I’ve had both.”
Darlene says as she creates she is always collecting recycled metal: sometimes she finds the perfect piece for a project she’s working on, sometimes she’ll make something from scratch, and sometimes she finds a piece for another project. “There are certain pieces of metal that scream what they want to be made into, so I just listen,” she says.
Her favorite creation so far is her portrait of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. “Considered one of Mexico’s greatest artists and admired as a feminist icon, I am inspired by her strength and will,” says Darlene.
Darlene has been aware of the importance of safety in the shop since an accident with an acetylene hose at a welding space she was renting. The acetylene hose exploded and whipped around shooting fire until the welder ran in and turned the tank off. “Even though it wasn’t mine it has made me more aware,” she says.
But some accidents can’t be prevented through awareness. “Easter Sunday was one of the most devastating days of my life,” Darlene says. A fire started in the laundry room due to a faulty water heater. The laundry room was attached to Darlene’s studio and shop in Pacoima, Calif. She not only lost a lot of her artwork, but her tools as well. “Thank God for my brother,” she says, “he saved me and my wiener dogs.”
Darlene is trying not to think about what she’s lost, instead looking to Frida for inspiration, an artist who persevered and continued to create in spite of many challenges, including lifelong health problems resulting from an accident.
“I’m strong and I have so much love and support, I’ll be creating soon,” Darlene vows.
If you follow Darlene on Facebook you’ll see she’s already begun to create again. Her first piece since the fire is a phoenix, the mythical bird who dies in a burst of flame and is reborn of the ashes.
If you’d like to help her rebuild, visit her GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/darlenekerns