Imagine my surprise on Friday night, when a flood of texts and tags came in with pictures of the Gator on ESPN! I couldn't believe my eyes. It looked so regal, all lit up on the screen, the favorite filler image of the evening. A moment I'll never forget!
I remember so vividly the wild days of fabrication that project required. It was in the fall of 2019 that I accepted the challenge of creating the sculpture in an extremely small window of time. And in the true artist way, I wouldn't be satisfied unless I could bring in new techniques I'd learned of in the recent years. It required many temporary scrap metal tools to be built (techniques aren't normally explored at this scale, so building custom tools for projects like this is very very common) as well as serious tool build outs like a 27 ton press. I had incredible assistance from fellow makers, who proved themselves to be cut from the same clothe and have given me some of the best memories I've had in my studio. It was a wild ride, full of very long days and plenty of coffee, and the finish line was met with a celebratory gathering for The Lighting of the Gator, with President of the University of Florida, Kent Fuchs, and many many more.
This sculpture represents the annual holiday celebrations of the University of Florida students, faculty and staff. The inclusive message supports a celebration of the season as a whole, encompassing the wide variety of holidays celebrated this time of year, as well as the hard earned ending of the semester, completion of final exams, and for some their graduation ceremony!
For the past two years I've spent a bit of time on campus while the Gator has been displayed and the circulation of students and staff walking past and stopping to observe or photograph the sculpture has been heartwarming. There is an earnest curiosity on campus that is deeply refreshing. This year, 2020, was understandably much quieter, but even so, the birds sang, the breeze blew by, and those who walked past stopped to admire the piece.
I'm a bit unassuming as the maker, so its a little devious and fun for me to sit on a nearby bench and observe this. People will say what they think! It's hard to remember another piece I've installed that regularly receives so many compliments and photographs. I assume it all comes back to the way students are eager to explore, and open to comment. I find it refreshing and am truly humbled as an alumni of the College of Fine Arts to have a piece placed on campus at the end of every fall semester.