By the Yard
Have you seen these around town? Outdoor sculpture adds intrigue to landscapes
Photos by EE Berger
Fitting Focal Point: Located on the property of Linda Orlans and Jerry Padilla in Birmingham, this intriguing sculpture, at left, turns heads regularly. Landscape designer Michael Dul, principal of Michael Dul & Associates in Birmingham, says he chose this sculpture from Sylvan Lake’s Branch Studio’s catalogue “because it provides a focal point for the space and because it harmonizes with the circular geometry of the bluestone plaza.” Constructed of steel straps that were galvanized and painted with a patina finish, the five-and-a-half-foot diameter sphere’s airy nature “allows delicate vines to climb and intertwine with the strapping,” Dul says. Amid brillliant white blooms and puffs of purple, the sphere is right at home.
Cassie & Jordan, the Coyote, and the Teepee
Wily Works: These boy and girl sculptures (below, right, now called Cassie, 66 inches high, and Jordan, 78 inches high) had no names when their owner, Amy Kantgias of Birmingham, purchased them 13 years ago. Eventually, however, her then 5-year-old daughter and a friend named the duo. Made out of welded steel found in a junkyard, rumor has it that both the boy and the girl were created by a truck driver from Indiana. “I saw them in the window of a store (Milieu) in Royal Oak, and arranged to
purchase them,” Kantgias recalls. On the same property stalks The Coyote (top), designed by Michael McGillis. Originally from Royal Oak, the sculptor has done coyote installations in France. “I commissioned him to make a coyote (of molded plastic) for both my sister and me a few years ago,” Kantgias says. The bamboo teepee on her property (below, left) was created by dpmt7, an architectural and design research studio in Cincinnati that designed it and then came to Birmingham to build it.
Orange Metal Horse
Giddy-Up: Passersby get a kick out this colorful metal horse that grazes on the owner’s Bloomfield Hills lawn. The homeowner had long been a fan of Deborah Butterfield’s horse sculptures, which can be viewed in museums and parks throughout the United States — including Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids. Unfortunately, “Butterfield’s work was a little out of my price range,” the homeowner says. She decided to commission Pontiac-based motorcycle builder and metal artist Ron Finch to create a piece out of scrap metal from an old swing set, a car fender, and a tailpipe that the two of them found at a local scrapyard. As for the color, the owner says she doesn’t remember exactly why they decided it would be fun to paint the finished sculpture “Halloween orange.” (Note: A Butterfield sculpture is featured below.)
The Wheel Fence
Art Spoke-’n Here: Constructed seven years ago out of 80 different rusted, wheel-shaped objects (including old tractor wheels, car wheels, and one steering wheel), this fascinating 60-foot-long Wheel Fence, situated amid the pines and gorgeous gardens at the Partridge family’s abode in Bloomfield Township, runs along the eastern side of the home’s property. Homeowner Jim Partridge took it upon himself to design the fence, then hired a welder to craft the striking artwork. At night, it’s backlit with LED lights.
Fallen, but Never Forgotten: Created in 1971 by Michael Hall, the former head of the sculpture department at the Cranbrook Art Academy, Le Moine — which is located on a Bloomfield Hills property — is part of the sculptor’s “Gate” series. Hall was inspired by the landscape of the Midwest and the presence of fences and gates often seen slumped and fallen on farm properties — a memory of another time and a metaphor for the futility of man’s attempt to control space and time. Made of cut and welded steel, and then painted a lavender-gray, the sculpture was purchased in 1986, just a few months after the homeowner’s father passed away. “I thought this piece would be a beautiful way to remember him,” he says. “People are always fascinated by it. It’s fun to see their responses to it.”
The Wonders of Wood: Formerly named Fish Trap by its creator, American sculptor Deborah Butterfield, Fleming now graces a property in Bloomfield Hills. Although Butterfield named the piece Fish Trap, the homeowners changed his name to Fleming after the late Ray Fleming, an owner of the Robert Kidd Gallery in Birmingham. Cast from carefully selected stray, downed pieces of wood burned away from molten bronze, Fleming features a special patina. A bit of background on the sculptor: Her sculptural forms are constructed in wood, and cast in bronze. They are shown in two scales: life-size works and smaller bronzes. Butterfield has become a master of three-dimensional images of horses, building her sculptures with no sketches or maquettes, and working directly with wood pieces or found metal scraps.
The Family Tree
To a Degree: In 2006, when a mammoth, 18-foot-high tree located on the side of Michael Stein’s driveway died as a result of a storm, Stein, of Birmingham, opted to transform what remained into an object of art. “Instead of sending the tree to its final resting place, I thought I could make use of it. So I hired Michael Kuefler to carve the names and college degrees of myself, my kids, and their spouses into it. We call it ‘The Family Tree,’” Stein says. Adds Kuefler: “It took approximately 30 hours to carve the tree and another 10 hours to coIor it with wood stain. I’ve done a lot of unique carvings — including one of EIvis playing a guitar — but nothing as unique as this tree.”
Sexy but Psycho & Peace on Earth
Steel-ing the Show: Richard Rollins of Birmingham designed Sexy But Psycho (left). The 19-foot-high, 70-foot-long head-turner, located in Rollins’ yard, is made of 10 pieces of cored, welded steel and then powder-coated a vibrant red. “It took more than three years to complete,” Rollins recalls. Rollins’ teepee-like sculpture (right) is called Peace on Earth. Designed in 1997 by Corktown sculptor Gary Eleinko, it’s made of plywood — and each piece was colored separately. “It gives off a lot of energy," Rollins says. Eleinko, an avid gardener, has shown his works in many venues, from the Detroit Institute of Arts to Cranbrook Art Museum, the College for Creative Studies, and Wayne State University, as well as shows in the Upper Peninsula, Kansas, Missouri, and numerous regional galleries and other locations.