The Paleo-osteological Bike Rack is a project sponsored by Springboard for the Arts.
The skeletons of large prehistoric creatures in museums are familiar to us all. They excite our imaginations and inspire us to learn more. Now, imagine yourself outside walking or riding your bike when suddenly you see that large skeleton, not poised to attack, but serenely at rest, inviting you to come closer.
The Paleo-osteological Bike Rack will be a unique and instantly recognizable piece of public art in Minnesota. People of all ages and backgrounds will recognize the skeleton of a large prehistoric animal. They may be initially confused because it's not in a museum, but outside in a park or downtown plaza. They will be drawn to investigate this most familiar form in such unexpected surroundings. And when they realize it is also a bike rack, their response will be one of delight. It will be the coolest bike rack anywhere!
As a Paleo-osteological Interpreter, I create skeletons of imaginary prehistoric creatures using the bones of contemporary mammals. In 1994 my first effort earned a blue ribbon in "Creative Activities" at the Minnesota State Fair. As my research and skills increased, my work better reflected the natural grace and beauty of the skeletal form, and I saw possibilities for more imaginative interpretations of that basic form.
Like my other work, The Paleo-osteological Bike Rack will be based on a prehistoric mammal, not a dinosaur, and will be my first outdoor piece. The initial step will be creating the full-size model from which the bronze sculpture will be reproduced. The bones will be sculpted in clay, from which papier-mache casts will be made. These solid yet lightweight casts will lend themselves perfectly to the construction of the spinal column and resulting rib cage where many minor adjustments will be necessary. The distance between the ribs must be great enough to allow space for the bicycle wheel without compromising the grace and proportion of the skeletal form. This technique evolved with great success while creating the Juvenile Griffin skeleton, which is currently hanging from the rafters of The Black Dog Cafe in Lowertown St. Paul. The model will require approximately 10 months to create and will consist of dozens of individual parts - each one a finished sculpture designed to join together as well as accommodate the eventual bronze process, (an additional 2 months). She will be approximately 8 feet long and 3 feet high at the shoulder.
With the ever-increasing commitment to bicycle use throughout the state, this public art celebrates the pride we can all share in Minnesota's dedication to a cleaner and healthier environment. The skeletons of all animals embody the grace and elegant balance of nature reflected in the many individual bones uniting to create a perfectly functioning mechanism. I believe this piece can represent the diversity of cultures united in a common effort to form our community, which like the skeleton, is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
Until now, my creatures have been seen primarily in my studio during the St. Paul Art Crawl where they have gathered an enthusiastic following. I have been featured on National Public Radio's "Studio 360", "HowWasTheShow.com", and in other local media. You can see my creatures and read their stories at www.mnartists.org/michael_bahl.
This project has received a Research and Development grant from Forecast Public Art. I hope you will consider a donation to help bring The Paleo-osteological Bike Rack to life in Minnesota.