The last time Rick Herzog was on a boat, he was 8 years old and he got seasick.
The 43-year-old artist laughs at the memory.
“This could be very interesting. I’m not sure what’s going to happen,” he says of his newest work, “Iceberg Flotilla.”
Sitting outside the New College sculpture building, where Herzog teaches two sculpture classes, is his curious structure: It’s a 22-foot-long pontoon boat, which has been turned into a fiberglass sculpture of an iceberg. It’s approximately 9 feet tall, 8 feet wide, and it’s drivable.
“I’ve had to do a lot of research, because I’m not a person who has been around boats a lot in my life,” Herzog says. The iceberg is already equipped with the proper lights and safety equipment, but he’s talking about adding portholes and possibly turning it into a houseboat.
Herzog is not sure if he will be the one living on it — he hasn’t tested the waters yet.
His idea to create an iceberg sculpture came to him almost a decade ago. He was living in Eastern Oregon where there was a lake about 6,000 feet above sea level and it was iced-over year-round.
“There, it was just an iceberg,” he says. “And here, the idea came back because of the bay and the warm waters — (making it) a little more ironic.”
Four years ago, Herzog and his sculptor wife, Joni Younkins-Herzog, moved to the area. He started building the iceberg boat two years ago — just for fun.
Herzog’s art is more analytical than expressive. He presents an oversimplification of shapes, drawing his artistic influence from the nature.
The wilderness has always been his playground, and he grew up romping around in the woods of Ohio, digging holes and climbing trees.
“I’m conflating the natural and the man-made,” he says.
He typically uses materials such as plastics, synthetics, Plexiglas and vinyl to create a repetitive steady shape like one would find in nature.
His installation, “Everything is Touching by Underground Wires,” in September, at Art Center Sarasota, turned Gallery 3 into an upside-down forest of exaggerated roots and trunks from floor to ceiling.
“(It’s) presenting something that is in our reality; that is tangible to us physically and conceptually,” he says.
Although an iceberg might not be a reality in Sarasota, it’s an irony that will draw attention to the bay when he unveils the project at Sarasota Bay Water Festival Saturday, Nov. 17.
Some people might assume Herzog’s sculpture is a statement about the environment, but that’s not why he made it.
“If they do start thinking about global climate change, that would be great,” he says.
Herzog doesn’t see himself as an activist.
“I don’t want to say, ‘One thing is right, and one thing is wrong,’” he says. “It’s more of bringing awareness, not of the social issues, but awareness of (the viewer’s) personal perspective on things.”
Herzog isn’t profound or pretentious. He’s just a guy who likes to build interesting-looking things; he’s always been that way. As a child, he built forts and snow houses — he continues to build forts as an adult.
Given his playful nature, it’s easy to picture him sitting on a folding chair inside his new fort, hanging out.
And, with the eagerness of a young boy who has just built the coolest treehouse on the block, he grins, saying: “Come look!”
IF YOU GO
Sarasota Bay Water Festival
This festival celebrates the importance of Sarasota Bay to the environment, economy and quality of life using music, art and exhibitions.
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17
Where: Ken Thompson Park near Mote Marine Laboratory
Cost: Free admission
Info: Visit sarasotabaywaterfestival.com
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