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A few days ago we visited a park that not many people seem to know about.
Siegfried and Roy Park is on 20 acres tucked away between UNLV's campus and McCarran International Airport at the corner of Maryland Parkway and Russell Road in Clark County - and it's pretty easy to miss. We got there at about 6 a.m.- The sun had already risen. The traffic was increasing on the roads.The city was gently waking up.
Wayne Littlejohn's sculpture is at the edge of the park. He calls it, "Dream Machine." We're here to meet the artist.
The project took Littlejohn almost two years from concept to installation. It was commissioned by Clark County's public art program.
A winding concentric dirt path leads up to a long-stemmed metal structure with a mysterious, hard-to-identify shape at the top. Combined with the reflection of the early morning sun, “Dream Machine” seems fantastical – almost other-worldly.
Does the piece have anything to do with UFOs?
I don’t think I could do something in Vegas without somehow referencing that type of stuff. There’s references to all sorts of things. I incorporate a lot of the area. So, from flight and experimental technology to aliens and the desert – it’s all in there.
The park is called Siegfried and Roy Park. Is there something in the work that incorporates the former Strip headliners?
When we started the project and all of the people competing for the project sat down, they said it didn’t have to be directly related to Siegfried and Roy. But I had already kind of gone with the feeling of magic and aviation. So, it was kind of magic and science that I was looking at. So, I think it does directly reference them, magicians and the whole bit. But it was kind of a general approach to it.
Do you consider it a sculpture?
It fits in the category of sculpture. I consider myself an object maker more than anything.
How did you make it?
The actual metal part of the sculpture, which is above the mound, is about 25 feet tall. It’s sits on about four feet of the boulders and then about six feet mound.
In creating the concentric circles, they raised the mound another 10 feet. So, initially, it would have been a lot lower than that. So, it’s at about a height of 40 feet above street level at this stage.
The technology I used to create this has changed considerably in the last two years. This would have been similar to [pouring metal into a clay form]. It would be melted down aluminum then poured into molds. But… you would do a positive – a full-scale piece out of another type of material. This would have been done full-scale out of polystyrene. It was digitally cut but it was hand finished because you can only get so close with the digital cutting, then molds were taken from that. They would be taken in sections. An actual mold would be taken of the positive. You would then coat that in about three-eighths inch thick wax, burn that out, make another mold then cast it metal and then weld it together over a metal skeleton.
The installation is called “Dream Machine” why?
Dream Machine started off as a working title for it. it went through a whole bunch of names over time. But Dream Machine seemed to fit because it encapsulated a lot of the Las Vegas experience and the experience of individuals when you come here. It could be as literal as Vegas is a dream machine because we come here with our dreams and sometimes they play out and sometimes they don’t.
It has this dreamlike quality to it. This elusive sort of form. It kind of fit and it grew into the name as the piece was developing.
How was the process of working with Clark County on this project?
Throughout the project, everybody was on the same page. Everybody was supportive. Everybody wants to make a great piece, whether they’re the artist, the park person or anybody involved. We all made this piece in some respects. No one was against it. It was really good. It was eye-opening to work with all these people.
Wayne Littlejohn’s next public art piece is also for Clark County. It’s the Rat Pack Crossroads project. Wayne is designing a public art piece that will be placed where Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr, and Dean Martin Drives all come together just off the Strip. The unveiling will most likely be next spring.
From Desert Companion: Profile: Wayne Littlejohn, Artist
Wayne Littlejohn, artist and teacher (College of Southern Nevada)
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