Entrepreneurial farmers are not the only ones who find Burlington’s Intervale to be fertile ground. Artist Tyler Vendituoli harvested a rhino from the place. That is, he gathered enough scrap metal — broken down from abandoned farming equipment — to create a formidable-looking beast that weighs 3000 pounds.
Standing at the ready for this weekend’s South End Art Hop, just north of Conant Metal & Light, “Ogden” is hard to miss. “I was thinking about a name for the rhino and decided on Ogden because of the poem by Ogden Nash, ‘The Rhinoceros,’” Vendituoli explains.
Nash might have liked to look at “something less prepoceros,” but passersby on Pine Street stop in their tracks at the sight of Vendituoli’s massive creation. In his job at Conant, he deconstructs and repurposes vintage metal furnishings, and those skills are evident in the rhino, which Vendituoli says he built on his own time. Breaking down the junked agricultural equipment into “manageable-size pieces” alone took 60 hours, he says, never mind another 90 hours spent turning metal discs, hydraulic jacks, springs, gears, tractor seats and other scarcely recognizable components into his heavy-metal monster.
Why choose a rhinocerous? “I had all these plates [from a disc harrow] and thought about things with armor,” Vendituoli reasons. “The rhino won out over the armadillo.” Scale-wise, it’s certainly more awesome. And, sprayed with black “rust converter” paint, Ogden is built to last … outdoors.
(By the way, he is unrelated to the rhino bursting through the clapboard above Conant’s front door.)
Vendituoli, 26, is originally from Maine but moved to Burke, Vt., at age 12. At the University of Vermont, he double-majored in fine arts — with a concentration in metals and sculpture — and geology. After school, Vendituoli worked with Shelburne artisan jeweler Matthew Taylor for a while, before concluding such delicate work was not for him. “I wanted to be more active,” he says, “so I went the metal route. I bugged Steve [Conant] for six months before he gave me a job.”
At first Vendituoli was just stripping furniture, but three and a half years later, he says, “I do all custom work and repurposing.” The artist admits he’s got a gift for seeing how old, discarded items can be given new purpose.
Ogden is one gigantic example. Somehow, the form of a scrap-metal rhino seems a perfect reincarnation for derelict farm machinery.
But Ogden won’t be a commanding presence on Pine Street forever. “After showing this at Art Hop, I’m hopefully selling it,” says Vendituoli, who reveals the cost to be $10,000. “I’ve had a lot of interest already,” he adds.
It’s a reasonable price for your very own, life-size, odd-toed ungulate, the envy of neighbors and guaranteed not to charge.
The original print version of this article was headlined "An Artist's Scrap-Metal Rhino Looms Large in Burlington."