Monday, October 7, 2013
McKinney sculptor on Big Tex: “They screwed up and it looks ugly”
The artist created a 14-foot version of the icon for an exhibit at the Hall of State, and said the two do not resemble one another.
FAIR PARK The return of Big Tex to the State Fair of Texas last week brought mixed reviews, many of them negative. McKinney sculptor Johnny Edwards, tasked with creating a 14-foot version of the icon for the Hall of State at Fair Park museum, hopes his rendition eased some fair-goers' disdain.
"More than 70 percent of the people polled are saying they don't like the new one," said Edwards, who spent the past month building the addition for the Life and Times of Big Tex exhibit. "The interesting part of it is SRO, the company that built the new [large] one, supplied me with the reference from what I built mine. Somewhere along the way in their process, they screwed up and it looks ugly."
Many anticipated the icon's return after a fire burned the previous Big Tex during the last weekend of the state fair last year. People from all over had come to love that one, as it turned 60 years old just weeks before the fire.
But their eagerness seems a thing of the past. Dozens of comments on the Fair Park Facebook page, on which pictures of Thursday's unveiling of the new Big Tex were quickly posted, echo Edwards. Many commentary questions the version's clothing, particularly its abstract boots, while some called it "Speedy Gonzalez" and said Big Tex is "ruined."
Edwards' creation, which he and a team of about six others built in recent weeks, was supposed to mirror the official icon. Working with Museumscapes, a company that's tasked him with museum projects all over the state, Edwards was to build a smaller replica of the new Big Tex.
When high winds forced the fair to reveal Big Tex a day early, Edwards was installing his rendition. He immediately noticed the differences between the two.
"I saw that they strayed from the model I was working from," he said. "The version I had been working from was more Disney-esque. I was contracted to build a giant belt buckle, two huge boots, an enormous hat and a figure bust of Big Tex."
SRO is highlighting a project other than Big Tex on its Facebook page, likely because of the immediate negative feedback, Edwards said. He researched both sides' creation via pictures taken during the process and said both were on cue until the mold-making steps.
Edwards, sworn to secrecy about Big Tex's new digs until the unveiling, figured their end products would be the same.
"All photographs [of the model] I got were stamped, and I had to sign an agreement that said I wouldn't post pictures or share photographs of what the new look was like, because they were waiting for the reveal," he said.
But since late August, when the Dallas Historical Society decided to add the exhibit, he and his team were working on their end at his studio, unaware there could be discrepancies.
"The scheduling was really rough - a lot of sleeping on a slab of foam or in a chair or on the floor," he said. "It was a lot of self-abuse."
Though the counterpart Big Tex looks "older and more wrinkly," he said, the exhibit where his creation exists is a visitors' favorite. He said his version received much more positive response.
It stands in an exhibit near an array of bronze statues of Texas' founding figures and legends. Just building Big Tex - albeit a smaller, less-noticeable one - was a dream come true for Edwards, who saw the icon every year growing up.
Museum officials haven't yet said for how long the exhibit is planned, though it's set to come around each fall with the state fair. If the larger Big Tex remains, those who don't like it may find solace in the smaller, not-so-replica version nearby.
"Even though I did the one in the museum and not the big one, generations from now, my grandkids and great-grandkids will think back and say, 'Great-grandpa Johnny worked on Big Tex," Edwards said. "It'll be whittled down to just that, and that'll be my legacy. That'd be pretty cool."
Dallas Historical Society’s Life and Times of Big Tex exhibit is on display through October 20 at the Hall of State at Fair Park, at 3939 Grand Avenue in Dallas. For more information, visit dallashistory.org.
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