Jim Gary’s Dinosaurs

Self taught artist Jim Gary has been designing dinosaurs (and many other things) from automobile parts for many years now. He recently took them on a world wide tour called 20th Century Dinosaurs. The dinosaurs in these photos are on display in his front and side yard (when they’re not on tour), and sell for as much as $150,000. Gary also designed the Colts Neck 9/11 Memorial.

UPDATE: I stopped by his home in 2005, and he was there but had no time to talk. He graciously gave me and a friend permission to walk around his property and take photos. It was my intent to followup and interview him, but sadly he passed away in January of 2006 before I had a chance to return. Learn more about Jim Gary at his website which goes in much greater detail of his life and his art.

brontosaurus

longneckjoe

raptors

trex

stegasaurus

triceratops2

The following is an excerpt from a NY Times article that ran upon his death.

This is from a NY Times article which was published after his death in January 2006.

Jim Gary, an internationally noted sculptor in metal whose best-known work transformed the skeletons of derelict cars into the hulking, playful and surprisingly graceful skeletons of dinosaurs, died on Saturday in Freehold, N.J. He was 66 and lived in Farmingdale, N.J. The cause was complications of a cerebral hemorrhage he suffered last month, said Arlene Berg, a longtime friend and Mr. Gary’s former business manager.

For the last three decades, Mr. Gary made his art from the detritus of postwar American consumer culture. Entirely self-taught, he haunted junkyards, where he dug up the bones of familiar bygone species – the gas-guzzling behemoths that roamed the earth in the 1950s, 60s and 70s – to reassemble them into far more exotic ones. Old Chryslers, he often said, made the finest dinosaurs. Welded by hand and painted in vivid colors, Mr. Gary’s sculptures were almost life-size, as much as 60 feet long and 20 feet high. Each comprised hundreds of car parts – it could take 10 automobiles to build a single dinosaur – and took up to a year to complete. His largest pieces sold for close to $100,000, Ms. Berg said.

Featured frequently in the news, Mr. Gary’s art has been exhibited at museums throughout the country, among them the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the Boston Children’s Museum. A traveling exhibition of his work, “20th-Century Dinosaurs,” has toured worldwide since the late 1970s. In Mr. Gary’s surgically precise anatomy, a brake shoe became a foot, an oil pan a jaw, an axle a femur. He turned leaf springs into rib cages and generator fans into huge lash-ringed eyes. For the spinal plates of a stegosaurus, he used part of a garbage truck’s compactor. For its tail spikes, he used Chevrolet shock absorbers. He also built smaller pieces, among them humpbacked turtles that began life as Volkswagen Beetles.

Mr. Gary’s other work included furniture, stained glass and a widely exhibited sculpture, “Universal Woman,” a sinuous female torso made of welded-together metal washers. The recipient of many commissions for art in public spaces, he designed the Sept. 11 memorial for Colts Neck, N.J., unveiled in 2002.

James Gary was born in Sebastian, Fla., on March 17, 1939, and grew up in Colts Neck. He was the second of 11 children of Charles Gary, a farmer and mason, and the former Lula Belle Beale, a domestic worker. An inveterate tinkerer even as a youth, Jim built a bicycle and – long before he was old enough to drive – several automobiles from spare parts. Educated in New Jersey public schools, Mr. Gary did a stint in the Navy, where he trained as an aviation mechanic. He later taught welding and gymnastics for the Job Corps before making his first sculptures in the early 1970s. Mr. Gary is survived by a sister, Maudine Weston of Fairfield, Calif.; and by four brothers: Charles, of Nashville; Robert, of Asbury Park, N.J.; Arthur, of Pinole, Calif.; and Carl, of Loxahatchee, Fla.

Because of the scale of his pieces, Mr. Gary had to build special equipment to assemble and move them. Much of this, too, was made from salvaged auto parts. To transport his work from one city to the next he used an enormous flatbed trailer. Curious drivers often followed the dinosaurs down the road for miles

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36 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Thea Chung on November 28, 2015 at 1:08 PM

    I am the Stained Glass Woman. Jim made it over me in his Red Bank studio when I was a student at Brookdale Community College (I was in the first graduating class). My friend Dottie is the Universal Lady. I would like to find out the collection where the Stain Glass Woman is and I can see it again. I,m now 83 years old and a couple of inches wider than what I was when Jim made the Glass.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Larry Diamond on January 17, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    While Jim was still alive he used to open his yard at Christmas time to all visitors. He decorated the dinosaurs with lights. It was amazing. I was in the wholesale candy business at the time. I dropped off a few boxes of candy canes so they could give them to the visitors that came to see his amazing works.

    Reply

  3. […] parts. His dinosaurs have toured the world on exhibit and command a high price in the art world. You can read about Jim Gary and his work in more detail here. In 2011 the bulk of his collection was shipped to Florida where it is on display at the […]

    Reply

  4. […] I never did and a year later he suffered a cerebral hemorage and passed away shortly afterward. I posted the pictures on this site along with a brief write up about the artist and his dinosaurs. Over the next few years I gave […]

    Reply

  5. Posted by Jacqueline Pastreck on May 2, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    Purchased a Jim Gary piece in the early 1970’s and often wondered about the artist. This is a small piece compared to the dinosaurs I’ve been reading about. It’s a group of mushrooms with an iron butterfly flying above. Piece is signed Jim Gary. Thanks for all the information on this great website and thanks to Jim Gary for sharing your talent and your art with us.

    Reply

    • Posted by Bob Richardson on August 12, 2012 at 12:09 PM

      I have a small piece of art work that JIm did for me in the early 70s. I am trying to find out if it has any value.

      Reply

    • Posted by kathy monahan on August 27, 2012 at 9:17 PM

      I also have a small piece. I am trying to find it’s value and also if there is a resale market for it.

      Reply

  6. Good article. I definitely love this site. Stick with it!

    Reply

  7. A friend,also an artist by the name of John Bass, known for his 7 minute full size Paintings, Introduced me to Jim in ’85. We hit it off lightning bolt fast !
    I spent many great and wonderful times with JIm. Traveling to his shows was an experience,especially when we had a Dino on the trailer,as the people on the street would stop and wave, so cool.

    He was so sweet,unassuming, and soft spoken. I loved his little “TeeHee ” laugh However, he always wanted his dining out meals to be to his liking. Or back they go, hah. He told me never to settle for something that was not up to par. This philosophy does show in his art.

    My heart has an empty place now, I still greive for him. My only consulation is that I will see him again when my time comes.
    I last spoke to him around Christmas of 05 said he’s had more heart problems, and have to curtail his works that were planned. If I had only known how short a time was left I would have spoken to him longer.
    Still love and miss you Jim.

    Reply

  8. Posted by david koblentz on July 6, 2011 at 11:36 PM

    I ran across the sculptures displayed next to a house in colts neck, on maple ave (39?). I nearly crashed my car… what awesome art !

    Reply

  9. Posted by mark kresel on July 4, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    Yes a GREAT ARTIST ! I have two pieces. Dragon Flys. Small & Large.
    My wife and I used to meet him at a real road diner outside of Farmingdale.
    We always had Pea Soup for lunch.
    I heard their is a ownership dispute of his works of art between his sisters and his agent on the ownership of his work !
    Mark K
    Jim we miss you !
    7/4/11 Always rememberesd

    Reply

  10. Posted by Tim Merola on March 19, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    I have a Jim Gary piece, the Road Runner, It must have been one of his ealiest pieces. What is it worth.

    Reply

  11. Posted by sandy ostwal on October 18, 2010 at 12:49 PM

    hi, can l join you

    Reply

  12. Posted by terri on August 29, 2010 at 6:59 PM

    Wow, he seems like he was a great guy and definitely talented!

    Reply

  13. Posted by carol sansera on March 31, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    I drove by Jim’s house in Farmingdale, and was sad to see it had been sold. They were removing the dinosaurs and it was like he died again. His yard was always a treat to see. We took many pictures over the years with my son , nephews, nieces, grandkids. He and his art are truly missed. I hope to see the dinosaurs again. Where were they placed? A Fan

    Reply

  14. I too am sad to hear about Jim’s passing. He was a regular at the auto parts store I worked at in the 80’s. He would come in at least once a week purchasing odds and ends to make his dinosaurs. He had that quiet way about him, but always had a smile. I was just thinking about him today. Any time I hear the song “In a Gadda Da Vida” by Iron Butterfly (Iron Butterfly was the name of Jim’s company) or anything to do with dinosaurs, I always think of Jim. He will surely be missed.

    Reply

  15. Posted by shawn on October 15, 2009 at 4:25 PM

    I remember watching a tv special, narrated by Christopher Reeves. “All about dinosaurs”, maybe off on that title. They had alittle part on Jim Gary. DRove by the green Stegasaurus on rt 33 in wall. I didn’t remember his name so i ran home to check up on it. I remember watching that show when I was about 8 yrs old. I am 31 now. It’s nice to think of that time in my life.

    Reply

  16. Posted by Bob Andretta on August 24, 2009 at 3:08 PM

    I am really sorry to hear that Jim passed away. I can remember driving around Freehold with him in a right hand drive MG. I did this search hoping I could re-connect with him.

    Reply

  17. […] and meadows the best.  I remember when I was young seeing the scrap metal dinosaur sculptures by Jim Gary.  He mostly used automobile parts of the classic domestic cars of the fifties, sixties, and […]

    Reply

  18. […] bet the metal reflects the lights beautifully when lit up.I strongly suspect that it may be one of Jim Gary’s […]

    Reply

  19. Posted by Tom on March 18, 2009 at 9:14 AM

    I’m sorry to hear of Jim’s passing. Did not get to know him, but I would have liked to have.

    Reply

  20. Posted by the coombs family on March 18, 2009 at 9:11 AM

    To jim we miss you more then words could say your you were the best you were always there for us.Your birthday is coming up will are going to see you it has been so hard without you here the kids miss u more forever running around the house and getting yelled at we go pass your house all the time sometimes i will sit and cry i think of all the good times we had it was the times of my life.will i love you and see you when i get there and i can tell you everything that happened after you went away.

    Reply

  21. I have a piece of Jim Gary’s works, probably one of his earliest projects. Its the bird “RoadRunner” What is it worth, its like the day he made it.

    Reply

  22. Posted by Kevin on March 12, 2009 at 4:17 PM

    i own a Jim Gary Road Runner

    Reply

  23. Posted by Steve on March 12, 2009 at 4:17 PM

    I am temporarily in Italy watching an episode of Modern Marvels: Excavators where they talked about Mr. Gary’s Dinasaurs.

    Reply

  24. Posted by JJ on March 12, 2009 at 4:16 PM

    Jim Gary was a fantastic artist. Have admired his work for 30+ years. First saw at a movie theater on Rt. 35 in Middletown– a roadrunner, then saw at Rutger’s Student Center in New Brunswick. I had the pleasure of meetig and talking to the artist several times a truly fine and interesting man. I had an iron-on decal of one of his dinosaurs in the 70’s- it was cool & found a signed poster from Monmouth Reform Temple Art Show featured every Spring time. Go to that & you won’t be disappointed.

    Reply

  25. Posted by Chip on March 12, 2009 at 4:14 PM

    I’m deeply saddened by Mr Gary’s death.I grew up knowing him as a friend of my father, Bill Reed. I grew up in colts neck on muhlenbrink road. I was friends with his nephews and niece’s down the street.I’ll pray for him and his family.

    Reply

  26. Posted by Jack on March 12, 2009 at 4:14 PM

    Thank you for this little memory of the Jim Gary genius. We will mis him dearly.

    Reply

  27. Posted by Krex on March 12, 2009 at 4:14 PM

    To my friend Jim. I will miss you. You were always a kind smile, you were quick to laugh, and your work and family is your legacy. I hope in heaven you find all the things you need to keep your creative soul working. Glory and Peace to you Jim.

    Reply

  28. Posted by Richie on March 12, 2009 at 4:13 PM

    I was sad to hear of Jims death, I blogged on him.

    http://hiphoprepublican.blogspot.com/2006/01/famous-black-sculptor-dies.html

    Reply

  29. Posted by Courtney on March 12, 2009 at 4:12 PM

    Dear Jim,
    We love you so much R.I.P.Here is the poem I presented at your memorial:We are here today in honor our friend Jim there was never a man sweeter than him.The times he gave us they were so great blessing the world was his true fate. When i found out there was a lull in my mind, about this prominent mans\’ death, but i guess it was his time. As he looks apon us right here and right now seeing the good times he brought us would make him so proud. Thanks for being such a great person

    Reply

  30. Posted by Ellen on March 12, 2009 at 4:12 PM

    I lived in the Red Bank area when Jim was beginning his work. I one of his early sailboat group sculptures at Danny’s Italian Restaurant in Red Bank. A few years later I took second prize to his first prize in stained glass at a show in Middletown. So sorry to hear of his death…..such exciting work he did!

    Reply

  31. Posted by Burch & Lynn on March 12, 2009 at 4:12 PM

    we have only our wonderful memories of you but they will live on forever as you will in our hearts.we have been blessed to have had you in our lives for so many years.the neighborhood will never be the same love you always jim.

    Reply

  32. Posted by Stef on March 12, 2009 at 3:59 PM

    I own a metal Bird, made from auto parts by and signed by Jim Gary.thanks for the great jim gary photos

    Reply

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