By Laurelle Walsh
Although giant tortoises are not generally thought of as native Methow Valley fauna, one seems to have taken up residence on Glover Street.
This particular giant tortoise is a product of Steve Love’s hands and imagination, rendered of scrap steel, and stands on the sidewalk in front of Donna Keyser’s D*SIGNS gallery.
“It has a beautiful face and lovely form,” said Keyser of the tortoise, which attracts the attention of passers by — most of whom stop to “pet it,” she said. “And kids are totally enraptured by it. Some of the little kids are bugging their parents to come by and see it every day,” she said.
The sculpture, titled “Oracle,” weighs about 350 pounds, Love estimates. It was fabricated at his Beyer Foundry in Pateros through a combination of forging, welding and carving, and finished with a chemical patina and lacquer. The name comes from ancient Chinese oracles who once used tortoise shells for divination, Love said.
Love built it with public art in mind, and is not surprised that people want to touch the tortoise’s smooth, warm, bronze-colored surface. “Sculpture invites touch,” he said. “You can understand it better when you feel it.”
Because the lacquered surface is already showing a few scuffs and scratches, Keyser has put up a sign asking people not to climb on the tortoise. Love applied a coat of protective wax on Tuesday (May 5), and said that for now, petting is OK. “We’ll see how the wax does,” he said.
The sculpture, which Love started building in 2012, is made from mostly recycled scrap steel “that was lying around the shop,” he said. The shell was made from a section of spherical propane tank, stamped “Seattle Boilerworks 1948.” Choker cable, probably used in logging operations, fills in the spaces between the shell and the body.
“A lot of people are doing repurposed art, but this is extra cool,” said Keyser.
The tortoise is for sale, and Love said he might try marketing it to buyers in the Southwest. Keyser hopes that it can stay in the valley. “There is an undercurrent of interested people who want to see more public art in Twisp,” she said. For now the tortoise can be found outside D*SIGNS at 109B Glover St. North in Twisp.