Public Art

Bonneville Trout are schooling again! I ramped the studio into wax production and pulled 6 new trout and delivered them to the foundry for rough-casting. They will eventually swim in the new Wilmington Courtyard in Sugarhouse, connecting the street of Wilmington to the Hidden Hollow riparian nature trail. This was greenlit by Salt Lake City, generously allowing City-owned reproduction rights to a private company to fulfill their public art requirement for new construction. It was a great example of public/private coordination to expand public art.


Wax production area is go!


Every bit of wax in the studio goes into the melting pot.

All six fish combined will require at least 40# of wax. Wax costs five times more than when last I ordered, as the manufacturer no longer sells directly (which adds a 50 mile drive just for wax). This set me to gather every broken bit of old sculptures and test-wax forms and in my hunting I discovered twenty-five pounds of wax slab & pouring foundations from creating Orpheus & Eurydice back in 2002. With everything going into the pot I just just just managed to form all 6 fish.


Building up 8 layers of wax with 1″ chip-brush. Delerium monotaneity ensues.

Christmas Elves sent me gift cards for more power tools and one of them turned out to be the best wax cutting tool ever. It trembles at 26,000 vibrations per minute, and it moves through wax like a cold laser- no more molten wax drips burning a path across the sculpture or over my hands and clothes, no more jamming hot sharp steel into myself for hours on end. Just a few minutes of hornets-nest buzzing and both sides are smooth-seamed and ready to join.


Curve and recurve sides are created separately then joined- this allows all fish to individually swim.

The halo of wax around the fish keeps the form tight to the mold so it doesn’t shrink and curl. It is that halo that the new tool removes so well. As the side of the mold that forms the outside curve cannot account for the amount of curve variance, I also have to bisect that fish half and shoe-horn in a custom section to take up the gap. In other words, I cut the head off just ahead of the dorsal fin and surgically insert a graft of new fish. This surgery is much easier with the new tool, and the fish hardly even feels it.


Sides joined, seamed, and set to chill in the shop.

It could be argued that each fish is an original sculpture, rather than an identical version pulled from a common mold. The fish on the floor displays the surgical graft to the midsection, and thumb clamps helping hold the form in place as the hot seams cool.


Orpheus’ severed head absolved to the abyss.

He guarded his secret cache of wax for 15 years, but his cache and himself went the way of his mythic being, and shared the tragic fate of his public art twin.


Cupric Nitrate and Zinc Nitrate in solution are brushed on.

The storm arrived early and the heat dropped into the 90s, so I headed back out to the tarantulas. With this color session taken care of, next comes highlighting and toning, then a series of sealants.


The sculptures are evenly heated with a big torch, which activates the chemical reaction with the bronze- oxidizing the media.


The liquid boils off as it is applied.


Then the torch lifts off any remaining water, and layers of color begin to build up.


Flipped over to get the opposite side.


The color begins to saturate.


Roasting is not toasting. They will scorch easily, so the flame has to be used and not overused.


The color is saturated as the brush can make it.


I went with the brush over the air brush, because my chemicals are in short supply. Once the spider is saturated, water can be airbrushed on to intensify the color.


The airbrush is water and the left over patina- a 30/1 solution or so.


Heat and water are simultaneous, making for colored fire.


A little under the arm please…


Saturation is evened out.


The mottling of brushwork is toned back, and the color is brought up.




Spider salute.


This is a smiling spider. You’ll have to trust me on that.


Now they need to cool down so I can go back in with steel wool and pull out details.


Tarantulas compare their etching layer. Color is next.

When last we saw the spiders they were just a jumble of separated bodies, metal legs, packs, and “window” cuts. Then my hand and leg were stung by hornets and just for something new, my hand and ankle swelled up like balloons over the course of the next few days, then slowly deflated over a few more days. It took a bit longer before I could chase metal with a pneumatic grinder. The welding went easily, and the chasing as well. Drilling and tapping three feet on each spider led to chasing out a bigger hole on a front foot to insert a nut for welding into the foot to ensure the anchor point- it is these kinds of little tweaks that eat up time. As I moved on to setting up for sandblasting and suited up- the day was jumping out of the 80’s, and by the time the spiders emerged in brushed gold from the tent it was in the mid 90’s. By the time they were coated in their etching chemicals, heated, and rubbed back with steel wool it was 97, and now everything is put up for the day and it is over 100. The real patina work needs to be done at a thinking temperature, and tomorrow’s high should be 30 degrees cooler as a storm front is moving in.


Sandblasted and ready for etching layer of patina.


Raise a leg if you are ready practice your climbing knots.


Sandblasted clean, the spiders do a happy dance before patina begins.


Tarantulas need safety gear and tight planning before heading up a wall or water spout.


Best to let a buddy double check the harness.


Tarantula tummy rubs…


Tarantula rough-cast in bronze with sprew-bar ends needing ground off and re-surfaced.

The little beastie was through rough-cast yesterday- just when I got on the highway there was the remains of an accident in oncoming traffic on the highway backing up all lanes for more than 6 miles. On the return trip it had cleared up, except for a 6-car accident where traffic hadn’t quite come to a stop at the far reach of the earlier stoppage. They raised the speed limit to 70mph at the beginning of the summer, so accidents are worse, and beget more accidents. The spiders legs weren’t knocked off in an accident, as we made it through with no problems- they were cut off by Samwise Gamgee & Sting back in July when the spider was still in clay. Since then I created the mold, pulled the wax, and dropped it down to the foundry before we headed to MT.


Tarantula parts are all ground out and ready for welding.

Metal chase is as far as we go today, as the day heated up quick this morning- and my hand went a bit numb using the pneumatic tools. Next up is repositioning the legs, tack welding it, checking for gesture / character, then welding it up and chasing out the welds.


The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone, and etc.


The patina is holding up nicely. A winter without snow has meant no road salt.


What was once a side street and parking is now a tidy plaza- with fish.


A trout drifts in an eddy of the plaza.


This single swimmer is headed to the corner intersection, where he is in line to meet up with the big triple group.


The single swimmer’s dorsal fin is just above the triple group. The fish were placed for these kind of alignments, bringing harmonized movement to the plaza.


Moving through the crosswalk gives pedestrians a nice view of the big group.


Just the right height for cars waiting at the light.


The fish are swimming up behind the pedestrian, and a few blocks farther up the school of fish from 2009 are in the intersection.


In the foreground is a beautiful compass in green, blue, and bronze inlay. It was carefully removed and refurbished. The colors and bronze elements tie in the trout at the ends of the plaza. Anchoring the entire plaza is a partial view of the base of Millard Filmore Malin’s The Founders of Pioneer Industry (1930-34). Added to Malin’s work is a fountain/waterwork. Wow!


Another single at the opposite end of the plaza contemplates his route through the granite shoals.


As pedestrian traffic slows for the mid-block crosswalk, they can meet a fish.


He swims singly, but forms a loose group with the pair swimming alongside the street.


The mottled patina alludes to the dapple of sunlight through water in a clear river.


The view of from the crosswalk on the other side of the street. This also gives a full view of the great art-deco lighting on the plaza.


The old Granite Furniture sign is refurbished and spinning above the fish.


The paired unit align with another pair, still within the ever-shrinking construction enclosure.


fish in a net, but not for long…

The sculptures are all in place, and the Sugar House Monument Plaza will finish with most major construction around Xmas and into the New Year. The fences will all come down and the Plaza will be open to the public soon, then there will be a grand opening in the Spring. I am happy to have my work included at such a great spot. It is really going to be a beautiful pedestrian plaza.

These 10 new trout correlate to my original 2005 Bonneville Reliquary group of five trout and two medallions located a block to the West, and two blocks to the East of the Plaza the Bonneville Upstream grouping of five trout from 2008 in the median of the intersection; a grand total of 20 trout. To see the blog history of my process creating the latest group look to the sidebar under Categories and find Cutthroat. Also in Categories under Bonneville is a short bit on the process for Bonneville Upstream.


Final trout is installed and oversees the prep work for his neighboring tree.

Triple Trout with plants.

Trout in the bioswale are happy to have the plants put in around them.

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Installation last Friday was timed just right, as we didn’t have to worry about stomping on plants or topsoil down the sonotubes.

triple and monument

The trout triple in front of Millard Filmore Malin’s The Founders of Pioneer Industry (1930-34).


This end of the Plaza is nearly completed, on the far end you can see a concrete truck busily pouring.

Trout with Plants

This fellow is guarding the greenhouse. His spot is holding all the plants (still in their pots) to go all along this side of the Plaza.

Trout in Transport

The xmas elves have twinkled their noses and the sculptures are all aboard the sleigh for early holiday delivery.


The sleigh arrives at the construction staging yard. Here the trout are lifted off the sleigh and secured to pallets for bobcat runs to the installation site.

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Everything is on site and ready for placement. We put the biggest group in first, in case we tucker out.



Got to keep them from swimming off while the concrete goes down the hole.

Trout Pair installed

The trout are happy to be out of the studio and anchored securely in place.


This single swimmer is anchored in position.


A fish gets there.

This single swimmer is at the far west end of the plaza. There is still one more single swimmer to go in once the plaza is a bit more finished out as there is currently no there there for a fish to go there.

8am on Friday, December 12 began the trout installation. It is a perfect day starting at a balmy 40 degrees with the temps in the mid 60’s by afternoon. First thing is heading over to Sugar House to the construction site to pick up the big trailer they are letting me borrow, then back to the studio and my volunteers show up and we muscle-up and carry all the sculptures out of storage in the shop where they have languished since the first week of June, and strap them down to the trailer.  It is a quick trip back over to the staging yard at the old Sugar House Deseret Industry where stage them for transport to the installation/construction site of the Plaza which is about a block away. We unload the sculptures onto pallets and strap them down securely. From there a construction worker picks the works up with a bobcat and trundles them over to the site, as well as a full palette of concrete that I’d had delivered to the yard last week. Then we muscle-up again and lift the sculptures into their sonotube holes (I have placed the sonotubes over the course of months as the pace of Plaza construction allows, four of them going in just the day before) along with their welded rebar cages, and pour concrete and water into the hole- then build braces with 2x4s to keep the fish steady as the concrete sets. We put in the big group of three and both pairs, and two single swimmers, but the site is still under construction and the place for the last single swimmer doesn’t exist yet. Maybe I can get him in before Xmas?