Written by Kieron Monks
15 Friday 15th January 2010

What would you say are the intentions of Triceracopter?

Triceracopter alludes to actual and possible mutations that may result from technology. It speaks specifically of instruments of destruction - killing machines - and the long evolutionary haul in which predator and prey have battled for survival. The sculptural forms of a dinosaur and helicopter, unlikely candidates for a single work, are here combined to invite wonder and contemplation of the mutation.


Would you place it within an existing tradition or is it a totally stand alone piece? Is anyone doing similar work today?

The artist had created another large work Stegowagenvolkssaurus, combining the form of a Stegosaurus dinosaur and a real (gutted) VW Beetle. That work was a commentary on our dependence on automobiles and fossil fuels. It was created at the height of the first round of US shortages of gasoline for cars in the early 1970s. That work can be seen online. It is on extended loan to Northern Kentucky University where it graces the main library.

Triceracopter could be placed in multiple traditions. It is a form of social commentary on killing machines and an expression of hope for the end of warfare. There are many artists who are working with the idea of bio-mechanical forms, juxtapositions and transformations.


What was the reaction on its original release? Was there controversy considering how recent the Vietnam war was?

There was no controversy, or if so, it did not get into print. Most people were just awestruck to see the work in the setting of a modernist gallery, the Contemporary Art Centre in Cincinnati. The work was exhibited as part of the US Bicentennial Celebration. The Army contributed the helicopter. Vietnam vets helped on the project.

Why are dinosaurs so endlessly fascinating?

For children, there is the "I can't believe it" factor and a certain fascination with being able to get the names right for all the varieties. With this generation, there are all sorts of toys that reinforce the image of these creatures as benign. The US has a purple dinosaur character instructing children on TV. For adults, I think there is a similar "Is that possible?" reaction. The scale and actuality of skeletons, re-assembled in museums, is still hard to believe. Coincidently, these two sculptures have a scale approximating the respective adult dinosaurs.


What was your involvement with the sculpture and the artist herself?

I was a consultant throughout the creation. I documented the whole project in black and white photos (many shown in the same space as the work). There are also numerous coloured slides, only a few of these converted to digital format. I had known the artist since high school. We had lived together for 41 years and both of us were teachers of art in Cincinnati. I am the executrix for her estate and thus heir to her unsold work.

Is Triceracopter your favourite Renick piece or is there one that's even better?

There are more 'orphaned' museum-quality works. About eighteen boats are in storage. All are designed to be suspended from the ceiling, and with lighting that makes the shadows part of the exhibition. Some are crafted from wood. These she called life-boats - boats about life. Each boat in that series functions as a visual metaphor for a stage in life or permutations in human relationships (e.g., mother and child).


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