"Blacksmith in the 21st Century" by Carol Elliott
Publication: Entertaining U
Article Date: March 27 - April 2 2003

Visitors who come to St. Augustine, the Nation's Oldest City, are charmed by historical re-enactors who wear period dress and perform related tasks. The blacksmith, for example, wore an apron while he heated iron so he could shape it into hooks, horseshoes and other functional uses.

Dennis Bernhardt is a modern-day sculptor and blacksmith. Dressed in jeans, he creates shapes out of steel plates that weigh 250 lbs. For demonstration purposes, he will be working on his mangrove project in the courtyard of the Oldest House Complex April 1 through 13. After a trip to the Kennedy Space Center, he had an idea of how the roots of the Red Mangroves bend. The mangrove roots are only on of the different forms he creates out of hot iron heated in a forge fired with coal. When the metal reaches the desired temperature (around 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit) he is able to hammer it into the shape he wants.

Born and raised in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, New York, Bernhardt became a certified pipe-fitter-welder for the Proctor and Gamble Company in New York. Later, after moving to northern New Jersey, he established an additional career as a commercial air conditioning technician. "I often used both skills on the same job," he says.

Working with metal over the years, he wanted to create his own forms and expressions so he decided to attend a school for blacksmiths at Peters Valley Craft Education Center in northwestern New Jersey.

He chose to relocate to St. Augustine for two reasons: warm weather and the natural environment. Woods filled with trees bring him a peace of mind necessary for coming up with creative ideas. Bernhardt is a member of the St. Augustine Art Association and the St. Augustine Historical Society. His work has been exhibited at the P.A.St.A Fine Art Gallery, the St. Augustine Art Association, the Page Edwards Gallery, and the St. Augustine/St. Johns County Airport Gallery. His work is also at the Eclipse Artworks in St. Augustine and will be in the gallery at the House of Stereo in Jacksonville during April. His work was juried in two shows, Fantastic Florida and the Cutting Edge, at the St. Augustine Art Association. It is also in private collections.

Bernhardt's clamshell will be part of the Tactile Art Show at the Page Edwards Gallery in the Oldest House Museum Complex that opens April 4 in conjunction with the First Friday Art Walk.

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