Shoe sculpture takes shape

A giant set of legs and shoes designed by two Red Deer ceramic artists for the bus stop and LRT station at Edmonton’s Southgate Mall is nearly complete.

The sculpture nears completion at Southgate Mall in Edmonton. At right

A giant set of legs and shoes designed by two Red Deer ceramic artists for the bus stop and LRT station at Edmonton’s Southgate Mall is nearly complete.

The finishing touches on the six-metre-high sculpture made out of around 7,600 bricks should be done by Monday.

One of the last things to do on the piece, known as Immense Mode, is to add the glass mosaic of flowers onto the shoes.

Dawn Detarando, who designed the sculpture with her husband Brian McArthur, said the project has been like running a long race.

“It’s like finishing a marathon. You’re exhausted. You want to drop to the ground and curl up into a ball and eat some soup,” Detarando said.

The artists have been putting in 14-hour days assembling the piece throughout the month of July into early August. For much of the month, the temperatures in Edmonton have been in the 30s and as high as 34C.

Far from being in a tranquil studio, Detarando and McArthur have been working on a cement pad in Edmonton, with heat from the sun radiating off the ground and the bricks around them and the sound of buses pulling up and driving away from the bus stop.

Although the project was controversial in Edmonton as a result of its $95,000 price tag, they’ve had mostly positive comments from all but a handful of people.

The 9.5-tonne (21,000-pound) work has a five-metre-long piling below the ground engineered by Stantec and fabricated by PCL to stabilize it. Murray McLachlin from Absolute Fusion welded the armature — or main skeleton — of the sculpture, as well as the steel caps for the top of the legs.

Detarando and McArthur received the bricks wet. They first put them into the rough shape of the sculpture, like putting Lego blocks together, and then shaped the bricks into the form they wanted. The bricks were labelled and mapped so that they could be reassembled properly and then they were fired — or baked — at their kiln.

McArthur said they first came up with the idea of creating a pair of shoes because it would be located around a lot of commuters and by the mall. But he said they wanted something that had more presence so they decided to continue the shoe into the leg.

Detarando said the striped black and white socks on the legs point both to fashion, but also have a light industrial sensibility and they are reminiscent of stacks.

“It’s to give the viewer or the commuter a different sense of scale,” McArthur said. He explained that as commuters look out the bus windows, they will see the shoes and legs and it’s left up to their imagination what exists beyond what they can see.

The couple has also created the brick rabbit in downtown Red Deer, a brick couch in Calgary and a brick fish in Abbotsford, B.C.

“I think having public art available to the community makes their lives a little richer and adds a bit of beauty and humour to their regular routine,” McArthur said.

Detarando said people live lives that are complicated, with people working harder than ever before, but a piece of public art can give them a bit of a reprieve from their hectic days or a little respite before they rush off to their next activity.

Besides public art, McArthur and Detarando create decorative tiles and house numbers through their company Voyager Art and Tile.

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