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There's art in that old machinery

A 68-foot-long dragon sculpture crossing the road at the entrance to Paul Cassidy€™s property serves as a gate. Powered by a solar panel, the middle portion of the dragon€™s body folds down to block the road. He made the dragon€™s head using the base of a stop-and-go light post, the teeth from excavating buckets, the whiskers from a rotary hoe and the horns from baler knives.

In rural Eyota, about 4 miles east of Rochester on County Road 9, is a giant metal fish leaping out of the rural landscape. Nearby, a huge metal bee stands in the middle of a cornfield — not far from the metal dragon guarding the entrance to Paul Cassidy's property.

Cassidy is a farmer, excavator and, for the last four years, a scrap metal sculptor.

In September, he will exhibit his 16-foot-high leaping fish in ArtPrize , an open art contest in Grand Rapids, Mich. In its fourth year, the contest draws 300,000 artists, jurors and visitors from all over the world and offers as much as $560,000 in prizes.

ArtPrize will be the first time Cassidy has ever put a price on his work.

He built the fish's skeleton from salvaged steel farm gates and rebar, which he bent using a hydraulic press, and then welded together. He made the outer body from electroplated steel, salvaged from computer cabinets. He took the cabinets apart and had them cut into square pieces and then welded them. The iridescent metal shines pink, blue and green in the sun.


Cassidy even builds equipment, such as a large metal press, to create his sculptures and for his business, Irish Excavating.

"Necessity is the mother of invention," he answered. "I grew up making do with what you got."

His father was a farmer on the same land Cassidy occupies today. He said his mother was an artist who taught him that "art can be pretty much anything." He's always been creative mechanically, he said.

"All my friends and family keep telling me I should just be doing this. I'd like to — it would be a dream come true. ... It all comes down to money and time," he said.

A drive down the road through Cassidy's property takes visitors past a kind of farming equipment museum. There are rusting threshing machines, pickups and other farm implements that have long since been replaced by more sophisticated technology.

They might become parts of future sculptures, such as a giant bull he plans to build next. But in the meantime, he just likes keeping the old equipment.

"I just can't see throwing them away," he said. "You'll never see them again. They're interesting."

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