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A Rare Bird: “Origins” Sculpture Celebrates Agriculture, Life Cycles and the Environment

Origins

Joining the Iron Horse and pack of painted bulldogs on Athens’ roster of larger-than-life animal sculptures, “Origins” is a new 20-foot-tall public artwork depicting a concrete chicken perched on top of an egg. Nodding to the age-old question of, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” the big bird seeks to inspire wonder about nature and reminds viewers of the importance of environmental stewardship. 

The towering sculpture was created by an artist team consisting of David Hale, David Harrison and Peter McCarron, and it reflects the unique skill set of each contributor. Illustrator and tattoo artist Hale of Love Hawk Studio has created multiple large-scale murals, such as “Hope” at Epiphany and “Birds of Heaven” at St. Mary’s Hospital, and his colorful line work is applied to the stained surface details of “Origins.” Harrison of Halifax Surface, who recently created the hyper-realistic log slide at Sandy Creek Nature Center’s new playscape, specializes in working with concrete. With an MFA in ceramics and sculpture, McCarron has experience in residential construction as well as set painting and carpentry for film and theater. 

“It was pretty easy for us to work as an artist team,” says McCarron. “We each worked mostly in the areas we had the most strength and experiences, and we had the other members of the team to help when help was needed.”

Though Harrison and McCarron both grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada—McCarron could even hear Harrison’s band practices from below his art studio at one point—the two didn’t meet until after they both relocated to Athens. Now close friends, they perform in the punk group Beat Up and also launched the DIY outdoor venue Red Line Athens. 

Jessica Smith

When an open call for public art proposals was announced, Harrison and McCarron happened to be working together on a project consisting of giant concrete acorns and tree roots for the new children’s garden at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. Alongside Hale, whom McCarron first met through their kids’ daycare, the trio developed and submitted a proposal.

“The physical process for creating ‘Origins’ started with David Hale’s sketch based on the brainstorming sessions we had about the project,” says McCarron. “Once the drawing was submitted and approved, David Harrison spent countless hours physically interacting with his computer, drawing up digital plans to calculate the materials needed to turn the sketch into reality.”

After pouring the concrete foundation, the sculpture’s framework was built using pressure-treated lumber and attached to the concrete footing using metal and bolts. A center tower made of four 4-by-6 posts was skinned with plywood sheets to create the contour lines. 

Once the woodworking was complete, the skeleton was wrapped in plastic, layered with expanded metal sheeting, then covered with a special concrete mix. Hale worked on staining the surface with color and painted a pastoral scene of rolling hills within a concave circle on the side of the egg. McCarron, meanwhile, focused on making a functional metal weather vane that depicts a gently smiling sun and moon. 

The sculpture is located outside of the Athens-Clarke County Extension office at 275 Cleveland Road. A cooperative venture between the University of Georgia and ACC Unified Government, the organization works to encourage lifelong learning through research-based education in the fields of agriculture, horticulture, the environment, nutrition and financial security. 

“The concept for ‘Origins’ was inspired by the function of the UGA Extension and the building we were designing the sculpture to sit in front of,” says McCarron. The sculpture touches on “agriculture, ideas of sustainability, life cycles, and the world and where and how we fit in it.”

Jessica Smith Detail by David Hale

“Origins” is located within feet of another new public artwork called “Hero’s Path” that was installed last June at Fire Station #2. Designed by Baton Rouge, LA-based artist Aaron Hussey, the 16-foot-tall sculpture combines a pair of ladders, castings of a firefighter’s helmet and coat, and an inscription of A.W. “Smokey” Linn’s “Firefighter’s Prayer.” 

Both sculptures were funded by the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) through the local government, which requires 1% of the budget for new construction to be spent on public art. These projects are coordinated by the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission.

In other ACAC news, Farm to Neighborhood and Chess and Community were recently announced as this season’s recipients of Arts in Community Awards. These awards of $2,000 each are distributed to local public art events, activities and other projects, and this particular cycle prompted applicants to submit proposals interpreting the theme of “Athens in Color.” 

Farm to Neighborhood, an organization led by Rashe Malcolm that works to increase the accessibility of nutritious and affordable food to limited-income Athenians, will host a “Classic City Art Crawl” to showcase the Black-owned businesses of Triangle Plaza in East Athens. Malcolm, who also owns the Jamaican restaurant Rashe’s Cuisine, plans to incorporate art installations, photography, live painting and documentaries. Under the guidance of local artist Broderick Flanigan, Chess and Community will lead a youth project in which participants will design, 3D print and paint their own chess pieces for one-of-a-kind chess boards. Keep your eyes peeled for announcements at athensculturalaffairs.org. 

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