Jesse Smigel gets to gnome you in the Arts District

Photo: Ginger Bruner

Artist Jesse Carson Smigel was so tired of the city’s Boulder Plaza Sculpture Park sitting locked and empty behind the Arts Factory that he thought about chucking a giant gnome over the fence, just to have something in there. In fact, he already had the gnome—a more than eight-foot sculpture in his backyard from a collaborative effort between Smigel and artist Keith Conley a few years before.

The Details

Gnot the Proper Gnomenclature
Daily, 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Artist reception, May 3, 6-10 p.m. and May 4, 6-11 p.m.
Boulder Plaza Sculpture Park, Main St. just north of Charleston (behind the Arts Factory)

It turned out, however, that Smigel didn’t need to donate an uninvited lawn ornament, because the city was launching a temporary pilot project in the space, and Smigel, who’d been pushing for a rotating sculpture garden, would be its inaugural artist.

Not only would he retouch and “Smigelfy” the leftover gnome in his backyard, he’d make a second one to go with it. Both are around nine feet. Their dwarf stature, red hats, white beards and rosy cheeks make them unmistakable members of the ornamental gnome family.

“I’m obsessed with yard art,” says Smigel, who considered a couple of other options but settled on the gnomes given the short deadline and the appeal gnomes have to every age group. They could serve as a photo-op for First Friday crowds, helping to turn the mostly ignored concrete park into a destination, he says.

“I’m hoping people will see it from afar and say, ‘Is that a goddamn garden gnome?’” Smigel says. “Or drive by and say, ‘I thought I just saw some giant gnomes.’”

Carved from large blocks of Styrofoam, the gnomes were hard-coated and painted, a treatment that will ensure they last about a year, unless someone climbs on or attacks them. The city even plans to leave the park open (rather than locked) for Gnot the Proper Gnomenclature, created by the born-and-raised Downtown artist who says he’s just decorating his neighborhood.

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