Desert Eagle (2022) and Turkey Vulture (2021–22), by Will Boone
The Katy Trail presents two recent works, Desert Eagle (2022) and Turkey Vulture (2021–22), by Will Boone. These are a part of a series of hand-painted bronze sculptures that the artist began in 2017, which have previously been displayed in gallery settings and as outdoor public sculpture.
While living in California, Boone became fascinated with plastic figurines of, among other subjects, athletes, monsters, politicians, and animals, found in hobby model kits. The artist drew thematic and archetypal parallels between these miniatures and the bronze sculpture of the Hellenistic period in Ancient Greece. In Boone’s body of work, Frankenstein becomes a stand-in for Medusa, JFK replaces Alexander the Great, Willie Mays takes over for the Seated Boxer, and a pitbull is the snarling descendent of the Molossus. Casting them in bronze and employing the same lost-wax process that has been used for 6,000 years, Boone elevates the plastic figurines of our contemporary culture to heroic scale. The artist then hand-paints these sculptures in garish colors using the type of enamel paint preferred by the American hobbyists who assemble the plastic models. As a result, the bronze, and its associations of elegance, is hidden from view; the works instead resemble the cartoonish roadside attractions and high school football mascots common to the artist’s home state of Texas.
Comprising a bald eagle chasing a bat, both hung, in this presentation, from a mature American elm, Desert Eagle takes its name from the most powerful handgun legally available in the United States. The eponymous bird has other potent, and often violent, associations: in Greek mythology, Zeus used an eagle as an instrument of divine and righteous punishment. It is also a symbol of American freedom and nationalism, yet due to the country’s use of DDT pesticides and predatory hunting practices, the eagle’s population was reduced to the verge of extinction in the twentieth century.
The avian subject of Turkey Vulture sits upon a rock base, much like the committee of vultures that roosted along a ridgeline in Comal County, where Boone resided upon his return to Texas in 2021. Despite being a powerful figure in many Mesoamerican myths, vultures often evoke negative associations—as scavengers or bottom feeders, symbolizing death and decay. However, these birds are critical catalysts in the cycle of life. Turkey Vulture reframes this misunderstood creature as a meaningful contributor to a larger ecosystem, whose thankless work cleaning the roadkill and rotting detritus should be recognized.
Transformed from cultural icons into bronze monuments and then back, once again, into symbols of American life, Boone imagines these works undergoing still another alchemical and metaphorical change: unearthed by another civilization long after the artist’s existence, the sculptures will have shed their paint and oxidized, their materiality enduring like that of the ancient world.