From delightful to controversial, if there ever was a subject that creates a rich profusion of mixed emotions it would have to be outdoor sculpture. Whether it be public art or in a private collection, the reactions from people can be both entertaining and maddening at the same time.
Some of my greatest experiences came during my years at our Birdland Sculpture Gardens and Studio in rural Powhatan, Virginia. Many of the area locals complimented my work by saying that we were an inspiration to the neighborhood. It became a regular event that we had people, totally unannounced, wandering around our property looking at the different sculpture installations.
Then there were the two guys who were working nearby on the set of the Tom Hanks production of John Adams. They stopped by to inquire about a two-ton steel botanical sculpture that I created… they thought that it was a live plant. One of them asked if he could photograph it to show his wife. When he asked me where he could get one of these trees I responded that "this is the only one in the world" and he could purchase it from me. He looked confused until I explained to him that it was made of painted steel. The price was out of his range but we all got a great laugh out of the mistake.
During this time I also created a 10-foot sculpture for the newly opened Powhatan State Park. It was a large abstract of a dancing Native American reminiscent of Kokopelli. Named "Chief Powhatan", over the years the piece has delighted thousands of park visitors… especially the children, and former Governor McDonnell quipped that the sculpture "Must be the First Republican". There was, however, one detractor (who shall remain unnamed). A woman who published a local journal referred to the sculpture as a big piece of amateurish trash and demanded that it be removed from the park.
Chief Powhatan is still in Powhatan State Park to this day… What a beautiful compliment!