Eagle Creek artist dreams big
Several enormous robots, a worm from outer space and a large psychedelic garden are just a few of Tyler Fuqua's creations.
Fuqua, an Eagle Creek-based artist, has displayed work everywhere from the Burning Man festival in Nevada to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. He was recently selected to create a permanent art installation at Lynchview Park in Portland.
At Lynchview, Fuqua will create a series of space plants, which he described as alien-like flowers holding giant gazing balls. The finished products will range in height from 8 to 15 feet, and children will be able to climb and play on the roots.
"I wanted it to look like alien space creatures came to the playground and checked it out," said Fuqua.
The project is expected to be complete next spring, and a meeting featuring concept drawings of the work will be held from 6-7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, at the Rosewood Initiative, 16126 S.E. Stark St., Portland.
"I'm excited that it will be in Portland forever. It's cool to have something local," he said.
Fuqua has been interested in large, interactive pieces since his earliest days as an artist.
His inspiration began when he saw a band called The String Cheese Incident on New Year's Eve 2000.
"With the music, they brought out giant puppets and costumes and created a participatory interactive parade," he said. "I was blown away. (I thought) 'This is what I have to do. I have to build big, crazy stuff.'"
Another source of inspiration for Fuqua has been Burning Man — an annual event in which a temporary city filled with art is erected in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada.
"At Burning Man, the stuff is huge. There are no limits. You can keep going bigger and bigger," he said. "There are so many awesome artists. People are there to see art so they're very appreciative of quality art. It energizes your creative juices."
One of the projects Fuqua created for Burning Man is a giant robot called Mechan 9.
"It's a 40 foot tall fallen robot lying on its back. There's strange alien code written all over his body, and you have to figure out what they say. It would take you on a festival-wide scavenger hunt," he said. "You'd learn the history of why it was at Burning Man and why it fell. People love the interactivity of that robot."
The project was such a success that Fuqua created a second robot, called Mechan 10, which now resides in Las Vegas.
Fuqua has long been inspired by robots.
"Growing up as a kid, I would watch Transformers," he said. "I love Bender and C-3PO. I'm a huge sci-fi fan. I took my favorite parts and squeezed them into the robots."
Another piece Fuqua created for Burning Man is a 30 foot aluminum space worm built on top of a series of tricycles. It's known as the Cosmic Space Worm.
"It's a mobile art piece. People ride the trikes to move it," he said, noting that the creature lights up.
In addition to its appearance at Burning Man, the worm was also at the 2017 Starlight Parade at the Portland Rose Festival, where it won a Portlandia Award.
Earlier this year, an insect costume Fuqua designed was featured in an exhibit at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. The exhibit — "No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man" — ran from April through September.
"I just build weird cool stuff. I never thought I'd be in the Smithsonian," he said.
Fuqua described the costume as "like wearing (an insect's) skeleton" with light-up wings.
Fuqua hopes to engage people with his work, whether that means climbing on the roots of an intergalactic flower or riding a tricycle to power a giant worm.
"Interactive is more fun. If I can, I try to make it explorable. I think people engage with art more when they're not just staring at a sculpture or a painting," he said. "I like to blow people's minds with big, crazy, whimsical creatures. I find that people of all ages like that."