When drafting ideas of artwork for the vacant space on the corner of 13th Avenue and Alder Street, Eugene artist Jud Turner settled on a peculiar but fitting idea for the Eugene area — a great blue heron.
“Herons are iconic part of this landscape. They are not a normal animal to see, so it’s a treat to see them,” Turner said. “They hang out on the Willamette River, and are very important to our area.”
The city of Eugene, The Duck Store and the University of Oregon combined efforts to commission a piece of artwork to compliment the newly designed traffic structure and intersection of 13th Avenue and Alder Street a year and a half ago. Turner’s idea was chosen among a pool of other local and regional artists.
But the process of constructing the heron was no easy task.
“The hardest part about making the heron was the physicality of welding on something that size. One hundred percent of the piece is welded steel, and fifty to seventy percent of that is recycled material with the remainder being new steel. Because it’s a linear structure with inside and outside parts, any weld I made on the outside I had to duplicate inside the structure,” Turner said.
The heron, which is partially constructed out of recycled bike and motorcycle steel, is a bit of an ironic analogy of sorts, according to Turner.
“It’s a bit of a role reversal. The bird is made out of man-made objects used to conquer the natural world. Things like motorcycle gears and bike parts are now part of something natural and beautiful. It’s a balance between man, technology and nature,” Turner explained.
Turner, a UO graduate with a fine arts and sociology degree, hopes the artwork will draw appreciation from a broader base of people than just art enthusiasts.
“My hope is that a motorcycle enthusiast could identify motorcycle pieces on the heron and appreciate the parts in a different setting,” he said.
The 1,400-pound, 16-foot-tall heron will serve as a guide to all future commuters.
“The piece is truly an analogy of a watchful heron over its own river; a river of people,” Turner said.