By now you’ve likely heard of Auburn’s latest art installation: “Crow With Fries”. Standing 12 foot tall and 18 foot long the interactive art installation was officially dedicated at the end of May. Seattle artist Peter Reiquam designed and welded the aluminum crow and French fry sculpture.
In 2015 the former Big Daddy Drive-In site was identified as a potential location for a public art installation. The City of Auburn began commissioning an art piece in 2017. A committee of Auburn residents narrowed the choice down out of the many Pacific Northwest artists who applied. Reiquam, and his proposed “Crow With Fries” piece were selected and confirmed by both the Auburn Arts Commission and City Council.
We spoke with Reiquam to find out more about him, his process, and of course his newest piece “Crow With Fries”:
Auburn Examiner: What inspired you to create “Crow With Fries”?
Peter Reiquam: I was inspired by the many resident crows in Les Gove Park and by the awning structure that remains from Big Daddy’s Drive-in that once occupied the site. The fact that the City decided to leave this relic in place intrigued me and I wanted to make a sculpture that would respond to that structure and recall the recent history of the site.
AE: Why did you choose to apply for this installation in Auburn?
PR: I am always looking for interesting opportunities and sites with interesting stories to tell and this one certainly does.
AE: How did it feel to learn you were awarded the installation?
PR: Oh, I was excited of course. Every selection becomes an opportunity to create new work that no one has ever seen before. My challenge is to come up with something new and relevant that will hopefully resonate with the public.
AE: How many hours did it take to build “Crow With Fries”?
PR: I don’t keep track of my hours, it’s too depressing when you add them all up. And it doesn’t really matter – you work as many hours as it takes to get the job done. But to give you some idea, the design and engineering phase lasted the better part of a year and I worked a solid four and a half months on the actual fabrication. After all of that, the actual installation was done in one day.
During a visit to Reiquam’s studio, we learned that he goes through a number of welding gloves when creating each piece. He keeps the retired gloves, mounting them on a wall in his studio.
AE: How many pairs of gloves did you go through building this installation?
PR: Three. This was a hard one.
AE: There have been comments questioning protecting the piece from vandalism such as graffiti. What steps have you taken in creating the piece to help prevent damage to it?
PR: The sculpture is powder-coated which is one of the most durable finishes available. It’s used in harsh marine environments as well as architectural applications where there is a lot of public contact. An automotive wax has been applied on top of the powder-coat finish, which helps to protect the surface and makes graffiti a bit easier to remove.
The bottom line is that when you put work out in public places you want the public to interact with it and you always know that vandalism is a possibility. But in my experience, art is generally more respected than other features of public spaces and my hope is that most people will love the piece and not deface it. The location is also in its favor in that it is very open and there are always lots of people around. This does act as somewhat of a deterrent to vandalism.
AE: Have you ever had a piece you’ve created be vandalized?
PR: I did have a piece graffitied once and naturally it made me angry, but also a bit sad and disrespected that someone would do that to something I created, something that is a part of me. But again, when you put work out in public you expect people to interact with it, you just hope that interaction will be positive and respectful. That particular piece is in a rather secluded park not far from a high school. It’s actually a beautiful spot and during the day it’s very family friendly and full of positive energy, but sometimes after dark there is a level of misbehavior lurking there.
AE: Auburn has many outdoor public art installations throughout the city. How do you feel public art displays, such as yours, benefit a city?
PR: Public art is a wonderful asset to any city and you can see that clearly in Auburn. It brings a vibrancy to the community and it makes people happy to be surrounded by beautiful things. I also think it exposes more people to arts and culture in general, especially people who might not ordinarily be inclined to go to galleries or museums, or the symphony or the ballet, are given an opportunity to see something they may never have seen before. I think my own work is pretty accessible to the public in that while it is very stylized in my own way, it consists of recognizable imagery and it has a sense of humor. I take my work very seriously, but I also want people to have fun with it.
AE: Why is art, in general, important?
PR: Art provides a unique way of seeing the world around us. As artists, we’re curious about our surroundings and I think many of us see things in ways that people who aren’t trained to look critically may not. It is our job to show the beauty and sometimes even the darkness in the world and to communicate that vision in creative ways. Every culture throughout history has made art, it is an essential part of being human.
AE: When did you begin appreciating art?
PR: Art has always been a part of my life. My parents were not artists, although they were both very creative, but they took my sisters and me to museums and art fairs and always had art in their home, nothing expensive, often reproductions, but also some original art. I was raised with a love and appreciation for art from the earliest age.
AE: When did you begin practicing art?
PR: I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t making art in some form, even as a very young child. I consider myself very luck that I have always known what I wanted to do and I’m still doing it.
AE: What other mediums do you work in?
PR: I mostly work in metals, but many of my projects have incorporated other materials too; concrete, stone, glass and light. I also draw and take a lot of photographs and I enjoy manipulating my photographs digitally. It’s very different from the large scale fabrication work and it provides a nice counterpoint that isn’t so physically demanding.
AE: What is your favorite medium to work in?
PR: I really enjoy working with metals, but the other media can be just as satisfying. Each one offers something different so I don’t really have a favorite per se, as long as I making art in some form, I’m happy.
AE: Is there an installation or piece you are particularly proud of?
PR: Well, “Crow With Fries”, of course, but I’m really proud of all of the work I’ve done. The piece I built in Albuquerque, New Mexico for Fire Station #2 especially tickles me. It’s a retro-style rocket ship in the guise of an Albuquerque fire engine. After I installed it and my crew had left the site, I stuck around for a few hours to look at it and to photograph the piece at dusk when the sky begins to turn a cobalt blue. I kept walking around the sculpture, admiring it and thinking to myself, “Damn, I made that! I made that! That’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen and I made it!”