Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

My recent trip to the west coast was a chance to see the work of two major outsider artist environment builders. One I already knew about, and the other was a surprise. This post covers the already-known (and already mentioned) Enchanted Highway. I'll post the second one later this week.

The Enchanted Highway is a 32-mile stretch of two-lane road that runs south from I-94 to the town of Regent. According to its Wikipedia page, it's a collection of the world's largest scrap-metal sculptures, built over the past 25 years. Local artist Gary Greff began it and plans each sculpture, working with community volunteers to build them. Bravo to Gary for following his vision and making his local world a much better place.

The sculptures are indeed enormous, and that doesn't come across so well in my photos. The northern-most sculpture,  Geese in Flight (2001), looms off the north side of the road as you head along I-94.

The sculpture is over four stories tall. Those are guy-wires running off the sides. It was a great idea to build this sculpture as an enticement to visit the others.

As you approach the main sculpture, you follow a dirt road marked by life-sized geese in flight, mounted on white posts:

After the geese get you to turn onto the highway, you see six more giant sculptures. In date order, the others are:

The Tin Family (1991) with its three members.

You can get a sense of scale from mom's head. Her eyes are car wheels. Her earrings are augers.

Their arms are 55-gallon drums:

The feet are livestock troughs, cut in half:

I'm not sure what the main body parts are exactly. Gigantic ventilation tubes? Maybe.

Teddy Rides Again (1993) is not as interesting, though note the stage coach in the foreground:

Each sculpture along the highway has a piece designed specifically for kids to play on. And a picnic pavillion, too.

Pheasants on the Prairie (1996) was one of my favorites. I especially liked the semi-transparent bodies of the birds.

This one seemed the most thoughtful in terms of the arrangement of the elements.

Grasshoppers in the Field (1999) includes grasshoppers in a range of sizes. This is the largest one, about the size of a house:

There's also a fence of wheat shafts and this group of wheat shafts:

Deer Crossing (2002) is just south of I-94:

The giant deer are accompanied by a human-scale metal maze for the kids.

Fisherman's Dream (2006) is the most ambitious of the sculptures.

The giant fish at the center leaps to grab a dragonfly while a human-sized person in a rowboat attempts to catch the fish:

The individual fish that surround the giant fish are each wonderful sculptures on their own.

After the last sculpture, you come to the town of Regent, which includes a 74-year-old food co-op. It's also home to the Enchanted Highway Gift Shop.

Next door to the giftshop is a house-sized set of whirly gigs:

I especially liked the hand-lettered sign:

When you press the button, the metal figures over in the house do their chores.

So put North Dakota on your travel agenda. And plan to spend the night in Regent at Gary Greff's Enchanted Castle motel.

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