|Great Blue Heron for the City of Eugene
In Spring 2012, the City of Eugene extended a national Call to Artists to create new public art at the corner of East 13th and Alder Streets, at the entry to the University of Oregon campus. My proposal to make a 16 foot tall Great Blue Heron from found objects was selected for the project. I liked the idea of creating this bird of prey at such a large scale that it appears to be hunting along a "river of human traffic" on the busy street below, and using parts from bicycles, motorcycles and cars to build it.
The photos below document the build process through the installation and dedication ceremony:
Scale model of Great Blue Heron and street corner at 13th and Alder Streets in Eugene, Oregon. Scale is 1 inch = 1 foot. The little guy would be a 6 foot tall person.
The City had recently dug up and repaved the intersection at 13th and Alder Streets, and in the process, they recovered historical trolley tracks that are more than 100 years old, which were offered to the winning artist for use in the project. They fit perfectly with my concept of using parts from various modes of transportation to build the Heron. In the background is a pile of bikes and parts which were cannibalized for Heron ingredients.
The base plate is a 3/4 inch thick steel plate, and weighed over 700 pounds. Scaffolding allowed me to carefully position the trolley tracks into Heron legs.
The second Heron leg being placed. The toes are the heads from pickaxes.
Heron podiatrist work: Pickaxe heads, springs and steel flanges for strength.
Beginning with overall outline of the Herons form, and an early leg thigh shape that was later discarded in favor of the bike sprocket and chain.
Various bike forks and parts for the Heron.
Bike sprocket and chains at the top of the legs to suggest the possibility of movement.
Bike handlebars welded to form breast plate and ground smooth. There was a LOT of welding and grinding in tight or difficult spaces as this project progressed.
Also, a lot of welding on a ladder or scaffolding.
Bicycle forks made perfect Heron feathers.
Overhead welding is like taking a shower of sparks and molten blobs of metal. It was also the middle of summer, so very hot some days. At least all the sweat made my clothes slightly less flammable...
The Heron is 16 feet tall, and my studio has an 18 foot ceiling.
Working up near the head required a lot of trips up and down the ladder/scaffolding. Sculpting at this large scale is very physically demanding. Never fell off it though!
Beginning the wing feather shapes with the bicycle forks. Lots of cross-reinforcement in the body, because this sculpture has to be extremely durable... it is right outside several bars and fraternity houses, and is likely to be climbed on...
A wide variety of bicycle and motorcycle sprockets were used to suggest body feathers on the Heron. The two sprockets down the center of the bird belly are "skip gear" bike parts from the 1930's!
Engineering services were donated to the City and I by OBEC Consulting Engineers who were very helpful in making sure the Heron was as strong as it could possibly be. (photo by Isaac Marquez, City Public Arts Manager)
Welding inside the Heron was quite challenging and uncomfortable. Because of the open, linear design, each weld had to be completed from the inside as well as the outside of the structure, then ground smooth. (photo by Chris Pitzer)
Welding on the head of the Heron. The eyes were specially made of glass by a very talented glass artist, Dave Popowitz, and installed at the very end of the process. We designed them in a way that the Heron appears to be staring at you no matter where on the sidewalk you stand.
Filthy and exhausted, I finally finished the fabrication part of the process after just over 300 hours of welding, grinding, cutting and shaping steel.
Lowering the 1400 pound sculpture to lay on it's side and get loaded onto a trailer was a challenging feat, and required 6 helpers and three material lifts.
The Heron loaded onto the trailer, ready to be taken to the sand blasting shop for cleaning the rust and paint off. (the glass eye is a prototype used to measure the final ones)
Definitely easier to pick it up with a big forklift. At sand blasting shop.
Heron after sand blasting, a harsh process which removed all rust and original paint, and prepared the surface to take the new paint.
I hired Tom Dorris to do the painting job, and we just set up the trailer to be a mobile paint booth.
Outside the mobile Heron paint booth, studio life continued as normal. Painting took 5 days.
Painting was a challenge, due to all the different angles, nooks and corners of the sculpture, but Tom was very dilligent in covering every inch with 3-4 coats of industrial-grade paint.
The plinth for the sculpture (concrete pad that says "University District") has been in place for over a year. Once the Heron was complete, I had to put the 1" mounting bolts into the concrete.
To insure the bolts would line up with the holes in the base of the sculpture, I made a wood template of the base. The bolts had to be 18 inches into the concrete, so I used a hammerdrill.
On the bottom of the base of the Heron, I dedicated it and signed it. It will face downwards, so never be seen again. I hope. (I also wrote on the bottom: "If you can read this, there's been a HUGE problem. Please contact me.")
The installation had to occur at 3 AM, per City requirements of not closing a major intersection during busy times. We used a large crane and about 12 workers to assist with lowering the Heron and securing it to the plinth. I was so caught up in this process that I did not take any photos. But all of the local news stations were on-site and ran footage from the installation on the AM news here:
KMTR - has video of crane, interview
KEZI - alternative video of crane, interview
KVAL - print article, quotes from City Staff
The Great Blue Heron on the morning of October 18, 2012.
The eyes look brilliant in the sun, and seem to follow you down the street.
Funding for the project came from the City of Eugene, The University of Oregon, and the Duckstore.
Close up of the leg sprocket. Welded the bike chain for added strength over the years.
The Great Blue Heron was officially dedicated as part of the City of Eugene's 150th birthday party, which happened on Oct. 20. The City closed the street, had a marimba band, and the Mayor invited the public to adorn the Heron with flowers. Eugene is such a great town!!
Many people came to welome the Heron!
Myself, Isaac Marquez, and Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy talking about the project.
At the end, they adorned the Heron with decorative lei made of recycled materials by the talented folks at MECCA.
The Great Blue Heron
Stop by and visit if you are in Eugene. 13th and Alder Streets. One block from Sacred Heart Hospital (where I was born) and one block from the UO (where I was educated.)