“Alchemy” finds its home


Salem Barker's sculpture "Alchemy" at its new home in Birmingham, Alabama.

Local fine arts sculptor Salem Barker has been crafting the largest sculpture of his prolific artist career. After nine months of planning, welding and glazing in his rural South Beloit barn/studio, he completed a majestic 28 ft. steel sculpture, “Alchemy.”

Salem began working on his creation in August 2022. About two months ago, the huge sculpture was finally completed. “Alchemy” was loaded onto a large flatbed truck and delivered to its resting place in Birmingham, Alabama, where it was installed in the newly renovated Nextec building.

The site was once a decaying industrial building. Birmingham developer Michael Mouron, who specializes in renovating old historic buildings, saw potential in the run-down Nextec building and renovating it.

A few years ago, Mouron commissioned Salem to create a 20 ft. sculpture, “The Outpouring” on the grounds of the Hilton Curio Hotel in Homewood, Alabama, a Birmingham suburb.

Mouron loved the results and asked Salem, who also has a background in industrial manufacturing, to create an even larger piece that would honor the steel-making heritage of Birmingham, while celebrating the city's two main industries: high tech electronics and medical technology.

The lower part of “Alchemy” resembles a Bessemer furnace. It is made of Corten (weathered steel) rolled H-beams and a cast iron gear originally used to rotate and pour newly purified steel. “Those furnaces emitted enormous flames. The two flames on the sculpture represent each of the new industries prevalent in Birmingham.”

The Barker family - wife, Kristina, their children Isaiah, Ezra and Promise - traveled to Birmingham to witness the installation.

Salem is a world-renowned artist. He creates small and large works of art in wood, stone and bronze. His work can be seen at the 75th annual Greenwich Village Art Fair, at 711 North Main Street in Rockford, September 16-17, 2023.

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