Mechanical animals

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Art > Exhibit will open with a public reception Jan. 16

By Special to the Monitor



Richard Swenson and David Trujillo are Los Alamos neighbors, friends and fellow sculptors of forms. Rabbits, prancing stylized horses, plunging and cavorting wild hogs, giraffes, whales, sinuous dragons, armadillos, porcupines — not to mention humans — are melded and welded from all manner of scrap metal. 

The duo will show their work in “Metal Menagerie: Scrap Metal Sculpture by Richard Swenson and David Trujillo,” at Mesa Public Library. The show opens with a reception from 5:30-7 p.m. Jan. 16.

“Do you know what this is?” Swenson asked, smiling and pointing to a solid chunk of machined metal that happens to be a giraffe’s shoulder. “A piece from a tool to yoke oxen together!” 

Or, as part of an expressive, rearing  horse, the mane is made of something that looks like a timing chain, though viewers might have a hard time guessing the original uses of the myriad parts that go into Swenson’s sculptures. 

Swenson’s work has been shown in museums, galleries, libraries and a host of other venues. His art and his creatures, grounded in his early years on a farm in North Dakota, are a puzzle of parts for adults and a visual feast for all ages.

Trujillo’s work takes a different tack, combining scrap metal — even the odd fork or spoon — with rocks, glass and the occasional other found objects which result in creatures full of character, who look like they might be right at home in a Wallace and Gromit film. 

Both men began creating sculpture after long careers in science. Swenson had a 30-year career in nuclear reactor physics and acoustic research in support of anti-submarine warfare and Trujillo, born and raised in New Mexico, used his degrees in civil and structural engineering at Los Alamos National Laboratory. 

After retiring in 2008, Trujillo learned from another sculptor neighbor before making Swenson’s acquaintance and spending many hours honing his craft with Swenson.

As artists, Trujillo and Swenson have local and regional followers. Both show their work in Los Alamos, at Karen Wray Fine Art. Trujillo’s work has been included in the Contemporary Hispanic Market during Spanish Market in Santa Fe and Swenson also shows his work at the New Concept Gallery in Santa Fe. 

New Orleans has benefited from Swenson’s creativity with a larger-than-life “running man” piece in the Audubon Park, as well as a tiger at Louisiana State University.

The work of both varies in scale and visitors are invited to experience the whole menagerie, large and small, at the Mesa Public Library Art Gallery. The exhibit opening reception is part of the Chamber of Commerce FAN Club event in conjunction with the Friends of Los Alamos County Libraries, refreshments by Peggy Pendergast.

The exhibit will continue on view Jan. 17-Feb. 27 during regular library hours. For more information, visit losalamosnm.us/library.