Since the 1970s, Casper has been dotted with dozens of bronze public sculptures, from the fisherman forever casting his fly rod into the North Platte River to the 20-foot polished Prometheus diving to earth in front of the Natrona County Public Library.
A bronze cowboy, cattle and bison welcome visitors driving into Casper from the west. Four bronze oil field workers meet those coming from
Bronze grizzly cubs play in the flowers at Second and Durbin streets. A bronze eagle circles a pyramid at First and Center.
Now Casper has a new landmark, a contemporary installation at the other end of the public art spectrum: a large-scale sundial made of steel, concrete, marble and 6,600 pounds of recycled glass.
Located at Beech Street and Collins Drive, “Confluence of Time and Place” by artist Matthew Dehaemers of Kansas City, Kan., will be dedicated today in a community block party celebration, “Sunshine After Hours.” The sculpture’s unveiling comes in connection with the grand opening of the low-income Sunshine Apartments, Wyoming’s first LEED-registered multifamily complex.
“This is the first time public art has created an anchor or a focus to an affordable housing project,” said David Haney, executive director of Wyoming Community Development Authority, which helped fund the artwork. “… It is going to be an absolutely terrific teaching tool for young people and old folks alike to realize the value of having this kind of investment from the community. It will also emphasize the sustainable nature of the project.”
During the day, Dehaemers’ sundial will cast shadows onto the circular concrete sidewalk and grass on which it sits. At night, LED lights at the artwork’s center will illuminate the sculpture and change colors. A wheel inside the dial spins in the wind.
The public art piece was a partnership between the Nicolaysen Art Museum, the Wyoming Community Development Authority, the city of Casper and Grimshaw Investments, developer of the Sunshine Apartments. Steve and Polly Grimshaw donated the lot for the artwork.
The museum put out a call to artists last year and received 86 applicants from around the world.
Dehaemers was one of three finalists invited to Casper last fall to view the site, and a jury of representatives from the four partner organizations then named him the winner.
“When he proposed the sundial concept, that was something that really caught our attention,” said Cheryl Gillum, WCDA deputy executive director and a member of the jury panel.
Gillum said she was impressed with the research Dehaemers put into the piece and the sundial’s interactive nature. Visitors will be able to climb up the sundial via a staircase.
Funding for the project included a $50,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant and additional grants from the Wyoming Arts Council and the McMurry Foundation.
The final cost of the project was $238,000, which includes cash and in-kind services, said museum curator Lisa Hatchadoorian. The artwork itself cost $115,500.
Dehaemers’ piece reflects on the geology, history and natural resources of Casper and Wyoming.
While in Casper last fall, the artist researched at the Tate Geological Museum and National Historic Trails Interpretive Center. Dehaemers said he was interested in the idea of “leaving a mark.”
Long ago, pioneers and American Indians left a mark on the land, whether through petroglyph carvings or etching names on Independence Rock. Today people leave a mark by using the land’s natural resources. Similarly, he said, the wind itself leaves a mark by carving the landscape.
The sundial connects that idea to the passage of time: 4.6 billion years of geological history and also the seconds, minutes, hours and days that make up our lives.
Dehaemers built miniature models of his installation and then used software such as Google SketchUp to perfect it. It took Denver-based sculptural fabrication studio Demiurge about four weeks to then construct the piece.
Installation began Monday when a crane lifted two large pieces of sundial from a flatbed over the sidewalk and trees to their place in the grass.
Dehaemers said he hopes people take enjoyment from his artwork and come to their own conclusions about its meaning and purpose.
“I love it when people see what they want to see in the piece,” he said.