Finding Sculpture in Salvage

By Jeff Siegel

Photo by Jim Shearhart

This article is reprinted with permission by Locator UpFront. It first appeared in the May / June 2001 issue.

The brontosaurus along Highway 15 in Gage, Okla. was created from wheels and other scrap metal by Jim Powers, the local artisan.

Drive through Gage on state
Highway 15, and sooner
or later (usually sooner,
since the northwest Oklahoma
town isn't all that big) you'll see a
brontosaurus, about as big as an
elephant and made of scrap metal,
standing by the side of the road.
Chances are, Jim Powers won't
be too far away.
"I don't quite know why I do
this;' said Powers, a 67-year-old
former policeman and retired
owner of an auto recycling facility,
who built the dinosaur as well as a
couple of dozen other pieces,
mostly from parts lying around
his yard, in the past decade. "It
seems like I just had to create. My
imagination was confusing me.
And it turned out to be enjoyable
and fun. In fact, I don't see any-
thing when I do it that stops me
from having fun."
In the past 10 years, Powers has
created elephants, birds, insects
and even a space ship - all put
together with used auto parts,
some oil field equipment scraps, a
welding torch and an imagination
that just keeps imagining. His
pieces have been sold throughout
the world, often purchased by
Ripley's Believe It or Not exhibits,
including a preying mantis to the
Philippines, a buffalo in Denmark,
and a dinosaur in Taiwan.
That's a far cry from his first
sculpture, a cowboy with a long
arm and a pointing finger He
made it from drive shafts and an
oil field pipe so his wife Beulah
would have a place to hang a bug
zapper. A passerby saw the cowboy
standing at the auto recycling
facility, and asked to buy it for
$500. Although Powers didn't sell
the piece, the offer made him
think he might have a future put-
ting these sorts of iron and metal
creations together
Since then, he has displayed his
work in various shows and small
museums throughout Oklahoma,
and a buffalo is on display at the
Plains Indian and Pioneers
Museum in nearby Woodward.
Most of the remaining pieces are
on display at his old facility, which
he closed in 1990.
Along the way, Powers also
learned a little bit about art (ask
him about the difference between
the abstract and contemporary
movements), and did a couple of
abstract pieces on commission.
There is also a web site displaying
his work at http://www.angelfire.

Powers' favorite sculpture is a
life-size elephant that the Ripley's
people bought and shipped to
South Korea. The piece, which
took a little more than three
months to create, is made of auto
rims mounted on an A-frame
from a three-quarter ton pickup.
The tail is an old drive shaft.
There is also a door in the belly so
kids can climb inside and play
with the sculpture.
"I like to make things that are
large enough to incorporate other
things in them," Powers said. "I
like to make them enormous
because they represent strength."
The one thing he doesn't spend
too much time doing is wonder-
ing why he does what he does.
"I always have a hard time
answering the whys and what for
questions, like my wife asks me," he explained. "Those are kind of
hard for me to answer I have
never thought of myself as an
artist. But a museum curator told
me one time that an artist is
someone who likes to create, so
maybe what she said is true.
Maybe I am artist."
Anyone who sees Powers' work
will attest to that.

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