Pieces of Prescott

Pre-schooler Robin, playing at the feet of a fanciful giraffe

“These animals, we’re rocking and rolling with them, ” says New Mexico-based artist Fredrick Prescott.

It’s easy to see why the big “kinetic steel” sculptures are so popular, why celebrities like Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Sullivan collect them and why people of all ages are drawn to them.

Animated by the slightest breeze, heads bob and trunks tilt. The Crayola colors and sheer scale of this unlikely herd pull visitors down the street at the CityPlace Art Festival in West Palm Beach.


“These are actually powder-coated,” Prescott explains -- sort of like your patio furniture, but with a lot more coats and a lot more care. There’s even diamond dust in the paint for extra luster and UV-protection. A few animals, like a bear cub and a constantly neighing horse, are left raw to take on the natural reddish-brown of oxidation. “All the moving parts are stainless steel.”

Unlike your patio furniture, a single large animal can cost $50,000 or more. Sales are steady.

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Prescott says he didn’t start as a sculptor. As a teenager, he jumped at the chance to attend classes in watercolor painting. The instructor took students to picturesque locations for inspiration.

“I really didn’t wanted to paint,” Prescott says. “I just wanted to go someplace.”

He started sculpture after a couple of years of college. “Big, abstract stuff.” Fast forward: the collage-like multimedia installations began attracting attention and Prescott found he was running a 17-person crew at his studio just to meet the demand. There was the piece that wound up on the set of a “Friends” episode. There were the Disney commissions. And there was “Absolut Prescott,” turned into a mass-market liquor display by the vodka maker. At the peak, Prescott says, it was something like a thousand sales a year.

Fredrick Prescott

“I don’t want to manage people,” he says. “I want to do sculpture.” So these days, he’s working with a smaller staff.

But the commissions are mammoth. For instance, the 14-foot bull elephant headed for the Toledo Zoo. (At just under a ton, it’s a lightweight by pachyderm standards, but hefty nonetheless.) Or the life-size longhorn installed by the City of Miami.

The sheer size of the sculpture turns art show attendance into a real zoo.

“We’ve got a Freightliner, a 65-foot rig,” Prescott says. His crew uses hydraulic lifts to line up the whole menagerie on the flatbed. “They just ride.”

“It can be dangerous, going down the highway,” Prescott says. Not the animals, they’re strapped down. Other drivers. “People do the damndest things to get a picture.”

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Robin, riding a blue Prescott dragon’s tail