While artist-in-residence at Arthub in Kingman, AZ, I was intrigued by the jackrabbits I would see on my daily forays in the desert. They were the inspiration for the idea to make a large sculpture depicting an anthropomorphic hare. I was fascinated with their distinctive long ears and oversized, powerful rear legs.
Compiling a proposal to create the twelve foot tall steel Running Hare, I presented it to nearby Mohave Community College along with a letter of recommendation from the Mayor of Kingman. The Dean of the College was receptive to the idea and my plan was approved to use the welding department facilities as a temporary studio to build the sculpture
The resident faculty head of the MCC welding department, Buddy May, showed me the outdoor area set aside for my temporary studio space. He gave me access to a storage room which contained an EZ-Up portable canopy, collapsible Miller welding work tables and all the welders and plasma cutters I needed.
I made use of the relative coolness of the morning to set up my work area and create some shade before the sun grew stronger. It was over 100 degrees everyday, much too hot to work in the direct sun.
Buddy also showed me some scrap steel I could use to build the giant hare sculpture. Among the pipes and sheets were two large stacks of ¼” thick steel circles that were all exactly 25 inches in diameter. Perfect material for a large heavy base. That evening I played with a stack of quarters to figure out the best way to configure the base.
I used 11 of the 25” diameter circles to make the base. Once I got them positioned correctly and ½” holes drilled in four of them for anchor bolt mounting at the site, they could be welded together.
This is where Jerry Shook comes in. A stout diminutive fellow, Jerry was a welder by trade. Now retired, he helps out at the college twenty hours a week. He sports a long white Fu Manchu stash and a shaved head. His friends affectionately refer to him as Papa Smurf. Jerry is an old-school welder who knows how to run a sweet bead. I was very lucky to have him working with me. As we got to know each other and I showed him the drawing of the sculpture I intended to build, his enthusiasm for the project grew. It took the rest of the morning and most of the next day to complete the base. Total weight, 403 lbs.
Material acquisition is a vitally important component of any sculpture, especially when a feature of the design is unusual and interesting found objects. Local businessman, Scott Dunton, is well connected and knows almost everyone in town. He’s the mini-me Donald Trump of Kingman. Brash and outspoken, Scott is a great friend to have when you need to get something done. In order to acquire scrap metal, asked Scott if he could arrange an introduction with the owner of Bulldog Scrap Recycling, Ken Watkins. In a flash, Scott called Watkins, told him about the sculpture project and just like that, he was on board.
Ken Watkins was very generous in supporting the project and gave me carte blanche to pick up as much material as I needed from his scrap yard to build the hare. I began to look around in earnest that afternoon and managed to find a few good pieces among the enormous piles of twisted metal stacked up by huge cranes carrying electromagnets. When I drove up, Dave, the manager of the operation warned me, “Stay clear of the center aisle when he’s swinging the magnet around.” It could easily toss cars around like so much litter.
It was already 98 degrees at nine am when Jerry and I started working on the hare. I held the steel pieces up in position and Jerry tacked them. I stepped back and checked the composition and said, “weld ‘er up”, and Jerry went to work. It was an efficient system and we both enjoyed the process of seeing the sculpture slowly come to life. We managed to finish most of the two thighs and the back foot in a little less than three hours.
Since the total height of the piece was going to be too high to work on without a scaffold, I engineered a simple device for joining the upper and lower portions of the sculpture. This way I could build both halves from the ground up to a working height of 6 feet and then bolt them together on the site.
Made good progress on the legs using leaf springs as curving linear elements. I also began to construct the torso. I used the measurements from the drawing when fashioning the pieces for the torso, which was important since I wasn’t working in direct relationship with the legs, but next to them on a table. We hoisted the rough armature up atop the legs and Jerry held it in place while I took a look. It’s going to work. It had the feeling of a running figure, dynamic and athletic.
To make up for the day we lost yesterday I came in again tonight at seven pm and worked on filling in the torso. After looking at the photos I took of the rough torso, I decided to shorten the upper arms and adjust the angle of them in relation to the body. It was nice working in the relative cool of the early evening, even though it was still in the mid-eighties.
It felt good to get back to work on the hare after the college was closed for the long labor day weekend. We have a great amount of work to do and a limited amount of days to accomplish it. This morning we worked on the arms and torso. Jerry plasma cut the shapes which I sketched out on the steel and I curved the pieces in the vice and welded them into place. It’s such a great help to have an assistant that can do jobs that otherwise would take me twice as long to do by myself. The heat was back hovering near 100 degrees with only an occasional breeze for relief. Working in the outdoor studio in the Arizona heat wasn’t easy.
After two months of work the piece is finished. We clear coated it this morning and it looks amazing. The gloss brings out the depth and sheen of the metal. All that remains is to install it in it’s permanent home along historic Route 66 this coming Thursday, September 24. A video of the whole process can be seen here.
Transported the hare to the site with a trailer and forklift this morning with the help of Scott Dunton’s crew. Setting it up went smoothly and it was proudly standing by 11am, to the delight of tourists and passers-by.