It’s a dragon, but it could be an alligator. Whatever it is, the green animal that guarded the front steps of the museum has been absent for a few weeks as artist Stephen Keel has taken up the task of refinishing the beast.
Natural corrosion caused by the elements had rusted many of its metal parts, causing the jaw to be on the verge of falling off.
Keel is looking to change all that though, putting the metal animal back together for showing at the Center for Creative Learning.
“Really, there’s nothing wrong with it except rust,” he said. “It just had natural corrosion. It was just sitting out there.”
Weeds also had invaded the sculpture.
Created from a variety of household items and construction materials such as concrete rebar, bedposts and deer stand parts, it’s a sight to behold.
In the refurbishing, Keel took barbecue grill brushes, Dremel tools and Rust-Oleum to remove rust and prevent it from recurring. He also repainted the creation a new, sparkling green, with a red mouth and white teeth.
Seale, Ala., native and artist Butch Anthony created the animal and sold it to the museum years ago. It’s been a staple ever since, attracting children and adults alike.
Exactly what type of creature it is has been the subject of speculation. Is it a mythical beast or a Southern reptile? A case could be made for either one.
“I would say dragon,” Keel said.
Keel found out about the refurbishing job through Chris Hagebak, owner of 809 Gallery of Art on Hill Street. Hagebak said the museum had the job available – scraping off the rust, cleaning off the weeds and repainting it – and Keel jumped at the chance.
“It was a cool opportunity, it really was, solely based on the fact that a lot of people from LaGrange remember this,” he said, “and restoring it and putting it back in a safe place is going to allow people to see it.”
He stepped into a few setbacks along the way, including placing the 30-pound head back on the body. He’s also had a few problems putting the eyeballs back in, but it’s all coming together well for the jolly, green creature.
“I appreciate the gallery and the museum for allowing me to do this,” Keel said. “Given the opportunity to restore, it was pretty cool.”
Trey Wood can be reached at twood@ lagrangenews.com or (706) 884-7311, Ext. 228.