‘Metal Whisperer’ Building Spaceship, Ray Gun

By Michael Wagar mwagar@yelmonline.com
Posted 7/27/17

A “metal whisperer” descended on Yelm this past week to create his critically acclaimed artwork for this weekend’s UFO Fest in Yelm.

“Jojo,” as everyone calls him, is creating a 25-foot …

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‘Metal Whisperer’ Building Spaceship, Ray Gun

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A “metal whisperer” descended on Yelm this past week to create his critically acclaimed artwork for this weekend’s UFO Fest in Yelm.

“Jojo,” as everyone calls him, is creating a 25-foot diameter, 9.5-foot-tall spaceship, with an accompanying ray gun, all out of scrap metal in a secret hideaway near McKenna stuffed with millions of dollars of scrap. The spaceship will be a centerpiece at UFO Fest on Prairie Properties. Jojo wants kids to interact with his spaceship at UFO Fest — “children wearing alien antennas.”

Joseph Jilbert Jojo, 61, traveled from his base in Las Vegas to Yelm for the festival, but he’s come much, much farther. He also has a base in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where in 2014 he opened a “massive art studios and event venue,” according to the hip magazine “225.”

“Jilbert’s visions are no mere mirages,” a fellow artist was quoted in the magazine. “He’s been an in-demand DJ in New York City, designed concert and restaurant spaces in New Orleans — where he moved with his family at age 8 — and many of his freewheeling ideas have become as substantial and recognizable as the metal figures found around the interior and exterior of Circa 1857 on Government Street.”

225 reports Jojo’s “latest sculptures are set to travel to New York, Paris and beyond later this year.” He’s also sculpted for seven years running at Burning Man.

Jojo, who is half Cherokee, half Norwegian, on Tuesday said his art has him busy in Las Vegas and across the globe. He makes custom pieces, leases some of his sculptures and accepts concessions. He works on movie sets, including the “Mad Max” series and a Tom Hanks film where he played a mad welder.

“I’m doing a lot of things for a lot of people,” Jojo said, adding he was drawn to UFO Fest.

A mutual friend of UFO Fest organizer Cameron Jayne, director of arts at the Triad Theater, introduced them.

“Calamity Jayne, I now call her Alien Jayne,” Jojo said. “She’s a friend of one of my good friends.”

One of the UFO Fest organizers, Steve Craig, hooked him up with the organic McKenna outdoor scrap museum, nestled a few hundred yards off the main road. Jojo found a home, and said he plans to set up shop and return. He said the Washington state cool air makes his skin “pretty.”

“What an incredible gesture to have acclaimed ‘green artist’ Jojo Jilbert come to Yelm and create an art piece specifically for the Yelm UFO Festival and Cosmic Symposium,” Craig said. “I know Cameron Jayne (aka Calamity Jayne) is thrilled that Jojo’s artistic creation is an absolutely huge contribution to the Triad Theater’s effort to promote the arts in Yelm.”

Jojo doesn’t brag; he lives. He’s not shy. He talks in rapid-fire, staccato, and he’ll tell his story.

“I am considered one of the leading green artists in the world,” he said, “and my saying is ‘what you throw away I sculpt away to a much neater and greener planet.”



Jojo doesn’t draw up his art beforehand. 

“The metal tells me what it wants to become. Therefore they call me the metal whisperer,” Jojo said. 

In a sing-song voice he said, “The metal whisperer has arrived here to come to save the day.”

A visit from the heavens came to him as a boy in 1962. 

He tells of climbing a tree with his brothers when a “giant star” came down. His brothers ran. Jojo went up and was missing for two hours.

“My life changed,” he said. 

After that ascension, he started welding at the age of 7. He lived on a third-generation cotton farm with his family and two brothers. They were poor. He made his own toys. Today his art is still his toy chest.

“All my art are my toys, and my friends — yes,” he said.

His first sculpture at age 7 was a small cross of Jesus. He sold it for $5.

“It was so detailed, you could see the thorns, his jawbone, everything,” Jojo said.

Jojo vows he’s coming back to the Nisqually Valley after UFO Fest to set up a studio.

Of his spaceship sitting in the middle of a dusty road in the middle of scrap in McKenna, Jojo said, “When I leave to go back to Vegas I’ll probably fly it back.”

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