Helping Cincinnati go hog wild

Sculpture: This little piggy went wee-wee-wee to its new home on the banks of the Ohio.

July 04, 2000|By Crystal Williams | Crystal Williams,SUN STAFF

A few weeks ago, Baltimore artist Bradford McDougall sent his lawyer brother-in-law in Cincinnati a little something for his workplace: a 6-foot-tall, 600-pound pig.

The pig, modeled after a lawyer, is made of fiberglass and wears a three-piece suit fashioned out of steel that is 1/16-inch to 1/8 -inch thick. He also carries a steel briefcase and holds a steel document titled "Habeas Porkus."

The porcine attorney's name: "Bringing Home the Bacon."

While you might think he'd take offense at what seems like an elaborate practical joke or political statement, McDougall's brother-in-law, Bill Mulvey, actually solicited the sculpture. His firm, Lyons & Fries Co., is sponsoring McDougall's pig as part of Cincinnati's "Big Pig Gig."

The "Big Pig Gig" is patterned after Chicago's "Cows on Parade," a public art project in which artist-designed cow sculptures covered the city. Cincinnati, a major pork-producing center for many years, has taken the idea and localized the animal symbol. Almost 300 pigs decorated by artists from around the country will line the city's streets until Oct. 31.

When Lyons & Fries Co. was thinking of sponsoring a pig, Mulvey suggested his brother-in-law. After a few rough sketches, McDougall submitted "Bringing Home the Bacon," and the company approved. The sketch was then submitted to the "Big Pig Gig" organization and, after a slight modification or two, McDougall began constructing the pig.

"Everyone thinks lawyers make a lot of money, and it was a pig, so I thought it made sense," says McDougall, who spent about 50 hours crafting "Bringing Home the Bacon."

There were a few difficulties with the pig's design and the weight of the steel.

"The pig's only standing on one foot," says McDougall. "I had to mount it onto the ground since it's so heavy. I knew people would be crawling over it, so I fixed it so you can stand on the briefcase and it wouldn't tip."

Before shipping the sculpture off to Cincinnati, McDougall held a "Bye-Bye Piggy BBQ" at his home. The only edible pigs at the affair were pigs-in-blankets, and for the sake of the guest of honor, the hot dogs were made from tofu.

McDougall is a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology, where he studied woodworking and furniture design. He works from his Roland Park residence, where he lives with his wife, Therese, daughter, Olivia, and an assortment of his wood and metalwork creations.

Works such as a rocking cow (instead of the usual horse), steel fish mobiles, snake-shaped pot-hanging rods, and a mailbox with steel daisies growing from the sides make his house a personal museum.

In his backyard are his workshop and a garden of his signature art mailboxes.

After witnessing the demise of an innocent mailbox in the 1986 movie "Stand by Me," McDougall was moved to create an "indestructible" mailbox. It has 220 large nails poking out of its top and sides and a baseball bat stuck within them as a warning to children looking for trouble.

Since then, he's designed several other mailboxes, including some featuring animals attached to the top, faces with dreadlocks, and daisies growing out of the box. They sell from $500 to $2,400.

While he is not showing any work locally at the moment, his "Unwearable Wears," a collection of miniature items of clothing made of steel hanging from wire clothesline, are soon to be on display at a gallery in La Jolla, Calif.

Although "Bringing Home the Bacon" is meant to be a light-hearted work of art, it could bring some serious bucks when the "Big Pig Gig" ends.

Companies that sponsored pigs for the event - spending anywhere from $2,800 to $10,000 each - can participate in a Nov. 13 auction of the sculptures. Half the proceeds are to go to a charity of their choice, and the rest to Cincinnati's Artworks program, which provides job training for art-based employment.

Mulvey's firm, though, has not yet decided whether "Bringing Home the Bacon" will be sold.

Cows, lizards, potatoes and ... fish?

The "Big Pig Gig" in Cincinnati is just the latest in a number of such animal-art events taking place in cities around the country.

New York has just launched it's version of "Cows on Parade" - to less-than-enthusiastic reviews and worries over the safety of the fiberglass used to make its cows.

Whitefish, Mont., has "Moose on the Loose," where 15 faux moose now roam its streets, and "Horsemania" began Friday in Lexington, Ky.

The state of Rhode Island, home to the Hasbro toy company, went from animal to vegetable for its public sculpture festival.

"Rhode Island: The Birthplace of Fun," features 31 artist-decorated Mr. Potato Heads, each 6 feet tall,around the state.

And just hours from Baltimore, in Norfolk, Va., "Mermaids on Parade" is currently displaying 50 of a planned 124 mermaids.

And in Baltimore?

As it turns out, city officials are discussing the possibility of a "Big Pig Gig"-like event. So what will be the theme symbol?

Artist Bradford McDougall has no doubt what it ought to be.

"It would have to be crabs," he said.

In fact, though, according to Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotions and Tourism, the current concept is aquatic, but a bit broader in scope: fish.- Crystal Williams

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