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26-foot-tall owl sculpture to go from Bow to N.Y.C.

Last modified: 4/16/2015 11:47:00 AM
A car pulled onto the Clinton Street driveway Saturday afternoon, a couple stopping to photograph the 26-foot-tall sculpture of an owl standing on the Bow property.

The artists, Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein, welcomed them. This type of spontaneous interest in their work happens frequently, they said. With an upcoming installation of five sculptures in New York City, Dodson and Moerlein – known as the Myth Makers – anticipate that interest in their looming avian art will only grow.

Beginning the morning of Jan. 3, the owl sculpture currently at Moerlein’s home will be installed along Broadway in New York City’s Garment District along with four other sculptures that all stand about 20 feet tall: a crow, a red-tailed hawk, a falcon and a Victoria crowned pigeon.

“They’re going to get swallowed by the scale,” Dodson said. “What people take away is the presence of it.”

The five sculptures – two of them still works-in-progress at a warehouse in Charlestown, Mass. – are constructed from sapling branches and trash, such as plastic bags and caution tape, a contrast to the skyscrapers of the city.

“We’re just repurposing this into something fun,” she said.

Feathers on the owl, named “The Great Spirit,” are plastic shopping bags and give movement to the otherwise stationary sculpture. “That’s a really delightful, kinetic aspect of it,” Dodson said.

The project, “Avian Avatars,” aims to find the familiar in an environment – such as trash in New York – tell stories and make a statement about waste.

“I think the idea of storytelling is really important to us,” Moerlein said.

The owl serves as “a humble leader that embraces the strengths and weaknesses of humanity and inspires from a spiritual perspective,” the artists said.

All of the birds that the artists chose are ones that pedestrians would be familiar with, making the public art relatable. Although relatable, public art is seldom on display in the Garment District in the winter. “We’re the first ones to try a winter installation,” Dodson said.

The Myth Makers’ art has been installed across the country, with many appearances in New England. Two sculptures of Dodson’s that are currently in front of the Clinton Street home were at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester earlier this year. Snow sculptures have been built in New Hampshire and Vermont, sapling sculptures and fire sculptures – sapling sculptures covered with straw and fuel – have been built in most New England states.

“Moose Myth,” a 22-foot sapling sculpture similar to the five in the New York installation, was on display in Portsmouth and Concord over the last few years.

The sculptures are not meant to be permanent; “Moose Myth,” once it was at the end of its life, was burned last year. “It went out in a blaze of glory,” Dodson said.

“Avian Avatars” will be on display for only a few months, until April 24. The project was commissioned by the Garment District Alliance, a nonprofit that works to improve the New York City district. Dodson and Moerlein met Gerald Scupp, vice president of the alliance, last year and said he invited the artists to make a proposal for an installation.

“It was just the luck that (they) liked what we were doing,” Moerlein said. “This is a highly competitive setting.”

Save That Stuff, a waste management and recycling company in Charlestown, Mass., is providing the materials and warehouse space to the Myth Makers. “We’re their first artist-in-residence,” Dodson said. “We kind of fit their mission.”

Wastefulness is one of the artists’ statements, but it is not intended to be a forceful lecture for viewers of their art. “We’re not trying to be heavy-handed . . . (it’s) kind of playful,” Moerlein said.

Where the Avian Avatars will go after April is undecided, but the artists hope viewers – and buyers – are intrigued by the winter art display.

“The beauty of sculpture is that it’s alive,” Moerlein said.

(Susan Doucet can be reached at 369-3309, sdoucet@cmonitor.com or on Twitter 


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