In 2004, I learned that a local NJ artist was building full sized dinosaurs out of car parts, many of which could be seen outside his Monmouth County home. Jim Gary was a self taught artist who worked in various mediums but mostly made sculptures out of metal. He was most famous for his sculptures of dinosaurs. He made them out of automotive parts he found in junkyards with painstaking attention to detail. Anyone familiar with cars can almost instantly recognize the calipers from a brake set that make up a foot or the leaf springs that make up the rib cage. Likewise nearly every one of his dinosaurs is instantly recognizable as the specific type of dinosaur it is meant to be, whether it was a T-Rex, a triceratops or a velociratpor. This is because he would research the dinosaurs extensively to make sure he got the number of vertebrae and ribs correct.
One day I took a drive and showed up unannounced at his home. I had no intention of bothering the artist, I hoped to simply take a few pictures from the road, something I imagined the artist would be accustomed to. Luckily, Jim Gary saw me, and offered me access to his property to take as many pictures as I liked. He had no time to speak to me then, but he said he would be happy to do so at another time. Unfortunately getting back to him was something I never did; the next year he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and passed away. 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 permission to the curators of his estate permission to use some of those pictures at various exhibits. Since that time, many people searching for information about Jim Gary have found my blog entry and left kind words about the man they knew, or only knew of but wish they had met.
I was contacted by Gary’s estate in August, 2011 and asked if I would come and document the dinosaurs one last time before they were moved to the Tallahassee Museum in Florida (where they will remain for another ten years or so). I was more then happy to do this and you can see those pictures here on flickr.
Jim Gary was close friends with the Berg family for several decades. They met when the Bergs bought some of his art, and their son would sometimes help Jim create new dinosaurs. Later, as Jim’s work became famous and would travel in art shows, the Berg family would help Jim disassemble, transport and reassemble the pieces for display. After Jim’s passing, the pieces that were outside his home were kept at the Berg home in Colt’s Neck. As the pieces were being loaded into the 18 wheeler bound for Florida, local residents realized that the dinosaurs that had been a part of their quiet neighborhood would no longer be there. Many expressed disappointment at the move but understood that the art deserved a chance for the greater public to better appreciate them.
I arrived early that morning to document the pieces before dis-assembly. They were much as I remembered them, if not a bit more weathered. Life sized, iconic and a cool factor of 11. I took a bunch of pictures and before I knew it heads and tails were off in preparation for loading the following day. When I returned again, a giant fork lift had arrived to lift the two ton dinosaurs from the lawn into the backs of two tractor trailers. Straps were strung under ribs and around legs. They were carefully moved across the lawn and into the street, then hoisted to the correct height to be carefully laid inside the truck.
You can’t conceive how difficult it was to safely move these pieces of art. Despite being made of welded metal they could still suffer stress fractures or even snap if they were to impact the ground or the sides of the trucks. Furthermore, they had to be balanced safely for the ride to the truck, but be level enough to be slid inside. The largest piece only had a 6 inch clearance of the truck’s ceiling. At the end of all the pictures is a video in 3 parts showing hard how the biggest piece was to load.
Two years later, the majority of the pieces sit in the Tallahassee Museum – BUT – two other pieces are now at Liberty Science Center, on exhibit until the end of September. If you get the chance, I strongly urge you to visit these gigantic art pieces. They are awe inspiring and dramatic, and represent everything that art should be.