“Lightning” Raptor Roosts

I saw an opportunity to apply for a small western states arts federation grant and was awarded some funding to create two more raptor roosts, one to include a nesting platform. I suggested putting them along a desolate section of highway in north central Wyoming. Game and Fish suggested that since that was sheep ranching country, and since ranchers there are convinced that eagles, hawks, and most other predators are eating their baby lambs (sometimes true), it would not be a good idea. Instead they suggested a parking pull-out along I-80 between Rawlins and Rock Springs. They had built some nesting platforms and had good response from ferruginous hawks. The land, however, was in BLM ownership rather than state. I was warned that BLM could be difficult to work with. Instead, I met a Raptor Biologist who became one of my great advocates. At one point he told me over the phone, “I am totally behind you. I really believe in your work”—more praise than I had ever had from the art world!

reassembling "Lightning" raptor roosts for installation on site

attaching nesting platform to "Lightning" raptor roost

With the “Lightning” raptor roosts, I learned to talk to a huge variety of people and groups. The Wyoming Arts Council had sent a letter of support to Game and Fish. They contacted BLM. BLM contacted the rancher who held the grazing lease on the site. I talked to the power company who had volunteered to install the Laramie raptor roosts and their Rock Springs branch would install these next ones. I think by the time we were done we had 5 government agencies, a corporation, two arts councils and several individuals involved in the project! All photos of the “Lightning” roosts are BLM photos.

"Lightning" raptor roost with nesting platform after installation

"Lightning" raptor roost with ferrugenous hawk chick, BLM photo

The location for the sculptures, at a parking pull-out along I-80 between Rawlins and Rock Springs, Wyoming, is a wide open, fairly barren segment of high desert steppe landscape. I looked for a theme for the sculptures, and interviewed some of the very few nearby inhabitants. They suggested that the most impressive landscape feature is the summer lightning storms that sweep through, so I worked from that motif.
My assistant Mark and I worked from my models, creating the tops for the sculptures in my studio and backyard in Laramie, then took them apart and loaded them into my little truck to drive halfway across Wyoming. The BLM had an empty garage where we reassembled the two sculptures with the 22 foot poles. Mark felt they might be too big, too elaborate. But when we installed them out on the prairie, Mark commented that they were almost dwarfed by the open landscape. It wasn’t until the ferruginous hawks built a nest on the nesting platform that I saw it as complete, in balance, a perfect collaboration. One of the power crew members on our way out from the site commented that he guessed they looked like lightning. Edward Abbey’s quote, “Artists have two jobs: to make art, and to be subversive” echoed in my head. Sweet subversion, I thought, keeping BLM staff and a whole power company crew working on Art, installing sculptures for a day rather than doing some of the less environmentally friendly practices they sometimes carried out.

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