One night I had a strange dream where I encountered a huge songbird hopping about in the yard. The shift in proportion made me feel apprehensive towards the enormous bird. He was scary.
I was used to seeing little birds as cute, harmless creatures. I reacted to him like he was a dinosaur, which in fact he was, as birds are the direct descendants of the dinosaurs. This sparrow was magnificent, stately and sublime.
As the dream encounter with dino-bird kept coming back to me throughout the day, I realized The big bird would be a perfect subject for a new sculpture. Perhaps I could bring that feeling of awe I had in the dream to the viewer when they encountered a giant bird sculpture face-to-face. I decided to shift the Passeridae paradigm and give the tiny bird monumental size and dignity.
After doing some anatomical research, I dashed off some sketches. Growing more enamored with the idea, I applied for funding from the Orlando, Florida Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, which was sponsoring a call for sculptures to be installed on the lawn of the Orange County Administration building for a year. One prerequisite was that the artwork had to be over six-feet tall. It seemed like destiny.
I presented the idea and was awarded the $3,500 grant, and Dream Sparrow was born, well not quite. Now came the hard part, I had to create it from a pile of rusted steel.
Building the sculpture
The first thing I did was purchase and install a chain hoist on the overhead “I” beam. I’ve always wanted the ability to rig up a heavy piece of sculpture and lift it from floor to workbench and vise versa. The hoist proved invaluable during the of production of the Dream Sparrow, as I moved it from floor to welding table many times to check proportions and for accessibility in welding. I don’t know how I ever got along without a hoist
After a week I had the sparrow standing as a complete wire frame. I worked on the feet and began to fill in the body with 16 gauge steel pieces which I cut from a sheet as well as transmission parts and flywheels. The big bird was coming alive. I would need a lot more material to fill him out completely, and he will be heavy, probably 400-600 lbs. I will have to make many trips to the local transmission shops, who so far, seem only too willing to let me dig through their scrap bins. They find the idea of an artist using their cast-offs an interesting distraction for them, a curiosity, in a world inhabited by grease-monkeys and motor heads.
It’s satisfying to add a piece of steel, a found object or a gear to the slowly growing bird. Bit by bit, it is taking form. The whole has become greater than the sum of it’s parts
A Bird’s Eye View
I always document the progress of my sculpture projects with photos, but ideally I wanted to have someone record the creation of the Dream Sparrow from start to finish with a behind-the-scenes video.
I was told about a bright young videographer, Nathan Shirk. I contacted him and told him about the project. He stopped by the studio and we hit it off immediately. He’s eager, smart and enthusiastic about shooting the production of the piece as well as the acquisition of materials at the transmission shops, and the eventual installation in Orlando.
Dream Sparrow was installed June 2016 at the Orange County Administration Building, located at 301 S Rosalind Ave, Orlando, FL 32801, and will be on display for a year.