Auburn sculptor’s horses hitch up a ride

Supersized steeds to be stabled in Folsom
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Epic in scale, mixing touches of Renaissance style with Trojan horse imagery, four giant horse statues emerged from Auburn artist J. Randall Smith’s studio Tuesday for a flat-bed trailer ride to Folsom. The horses – commissioned by Elliott Homes – arrived throughout the day at Folsom’s Palladio at Broadstone retail-office center for permanent display. The doorway to Smith’s barnlike working space in the former Auburn Lumber Company sawmill building barely allowed the bronze hooves of the horses through. Chuck Di Lucci, of Auburn’s C&T Welding, operated the fork lift to gingerly maneuver each 900-pound steed into the sunlight and onto the waiting flat-bed. Smith moved around the statues as they were balanced and fastened on the trailer, nervously touching the shining surface under a bright, late-summer sun that caught and reflected the glint of bronze. Smith said the horses were meant to evoke the Renaissance – the Palladio is named for 16th century Venetian architect Andrea Palladio – but also a whimsical spirit that’s perhaps best exemplified in the early 21st century by movie director Tim Burton’s animations. “The idea is to give them a fanciful feeling,” Smith said. Art consultant Cindy Strickland worked with Smith and Elliott Homes’ Harry Elliott IV, Harry Elliott III and Price Walker over four years to move the project slowly to completion. Elliott Homes owns Broadstone Land LLC, which is developing the 540,000 square-foot outdoor retail attraction. Elliott Homes considered eight local artist portfolios before deciding on works by Smith and Phill Evans of Fair Oaks. Evans has created kinetic sculptures, using copper and bronze as key materials. “It’s nice that they have been working with local artists because it has been a real collaborative process,” Strickland said. Strickland has been assisting Smith to market his art for a decade. Smith developed and trademarked an original art form of breaking ceramic sculptures and then reworking them, called Kraku. He established a studio in Auburn about 10 years ago after fulfilling a promise to himself to leave his regular job in mainstream design to become a full-time artist. The Smith-Elliott collaboration on the Palladio works started with sketches and then moved through small-scale sculptures the larger ones would be based on. While the project continued, the economy began to lose momentum. Smith said he is grateful that the Elliott team remained committed to a project it could have walked away from. “They could have said it would wait until the economy changes but they realized they needed to do it now and for an artist to have work,” Smith said. “Had I not had this commission, I may have been looking for another job. They’re wonderful people to work with.” Smith’s Palladio sculpture menagerie also includes six herons 9 to 12 feet tall that were placed at the Folsom location earlier in the summer. The horses are now in position to be cemented in place. They’re intended to grace three corners of an area in front of country singer Toby Keith’s new Love This Bar & Grill restaurant at the Palladio. The Palladio is located off East Bidwell Road. Motorists at many points between Auburn and Folsom caught a glimpse of the near-half-ton stallions rolling down the road. Strickland said she was thinking the horses would be moved slowly but drivers kept the speed up on the 25-mile trek. “It’s just a relief that they made it safely,” Strickland said.