The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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April 30, 2006

Art parts

Retired Mapleton farmer makes art from metal parts

MAPLETON — — To Dick Sonnek, that old air compressor is actually a grasshopper.

While most people think of junk as ugly, the Mapleton farmer turned artist finds inspiration in the discarded items he discovers in the scrap yard.

Old street sweeping brushes look like eyebrows to Sonnek. A rusty tractor seat emerges as butterfly wings or turkey tails.

“I’m fortunate that I have an eye for a piece that will work well to create art,” Sonnek said. “The ideas pop into my head all of a sudden.”

That’s exactly what happened a few weeks ago in Mankato during one of his routine “scrap yard fixes.” Sonnek saw what probably was once a grate but is now a tangled crushed mass and immediately announced, “a horse.”

Actually all he had was the horse’s mane. But scrounging through his endless piles of potential art parts from other forages, Sonnek came up with the other pieces for his sculpture. Just recently the 11-foot-tall, 3,000-pound horse emerged from Sonnek’s machine shed after 55 hours of work.

Two old horse-drawn hay mowers make up the horse’s frame, one a Minnesota mower and the other a John Deere. The knees were once water pumps and the hooves are formed from the tops of oxygen welding cylinders.

The different body parts of the stallion (it is anatomically correct) include a grain seeder end piece, part of an old walking plow, a pick ax head, a furnace door on hinges that opens, a 1937 Chevy rim that rotates and an engine piston. The tail is made from a cow stanchion.

Junk art specialty

This form of art is called junk art or found art, sometimes outsider art. And it is what Sonnek is talented at crafting. He can take an ordinary machine part or discarded tool and make it into an extraordinary piece of art.

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