​JOHN HENSON NAIL ART



The inspiration to make art like this (large pieces, unusual & repurposed materials, iconic images) comes primarily from my time with the thriving creative community in the Joshua Tree area of the Mojave desert.  The idea to work with nails came after I rescued a cache of discarded hardware at the back of a theater headed for the landfill.

It took me six months to figure out how to create large images by hammering thousands of nails into wood, and another six months to create my first piece. The technique has evolved with successive pieces, and I love the methodical and time consuming process of making nail art.

Only later did it occur to me that doing this work is my way of processing the loss of my brother Jerry who, as a roof installer, probably pounded more nails than I ever will.  My thoughts are often with him when I work.


For a few years I chose to exclusively show my work at the annual Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tour in Joshua Tree.  It is the largest studio tour in Southern California and mine is now among the most visited studios out of over 150 participating artists.


More recently, my art has been shown at galleries and exhibitions in the Joshua Tree area of the high desert, the Palm Springs area of the low desert and Los Angeles, and my artwork has won several awards at juried exhibits and contests.


 To answer the most common questions about the nail art:

  • Each piece consists of 3,000 to 33,000 nails.

  • Each piece takes 40 to 80 hours to complete, spread over a period of one to six months.

  • Each nail is hand driven with a ball-peen hammer, struck five to seven times into a painted wood panel.

  • Each piece has one uniquely colored nail.

  • Assuming 99.9% accuracy swinging the hammer, that would mean I bent a nail or hit my thumb around 850 times - which sounds about right!