BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—An artist has metamorphosed discarded truck tire ``gators'' into masterpieces. In a display room at Birmingham-Southern College's Environmental Center, nine crows made of truck tire gators are suspended on springs to show visitors ways to recycle and reuse waste products.
The birds were created by Randy Gachet, a 33-year-old construction worker and art graduate from Birmingham-Southern, who picked up tire gators off the side of highways and transformed the junk rubber into a work of art.
``I've always been drawn to fine materials and objects,'' Mr. Gachet said. ``That's the basis of my work. It's kind of a natural evolution for me to get to this point with tires.''
Fascinated with crows and having heard of Earthship homes constructed out of tires in the Southwest, Mr. Gachet noticed that some of the curled up treads along the highways resembled bird wings. He saw patterns on flat tread pieces that suggested feathers, and the black rubber was the perfect color and texture for a crow.
Mr. Gachet went to work on the treads he collected, making flat, cut-out crows with a basic body shape. He found that as the steel belts in the treads came off in strips, he could cut the rubber into pieces more easily and fashion the body with feathers, giving the form a three-dimensional shape.
Mr. Gachet had created other art pieces, including crows, out of wood, copper and burlap, but not from tire treads, he said. The subject and material came together better than he originally envisioned.
``It was kind of magical in the way it happened,'' he said.
Mr. Gachet initially made eight crows and displayed them in a local art gallery during the fall of 1998. Roald Hazelhoff, director of Birmingham-Southern's Environmental Center, saw the crows at the exhibit and persuaded the college to commission Mr. Gachet to create more crows out of tire treads for the center.
The college's Environmental Center, frequented by 20,000 visitors annually, displays how individuals can reuse waste to help clean up the environment, according to Mr. Hazelhoff.
A number of art works made from trash are exhibited in the center, including a garden containing sculptures made from discarded Volkswagen parts. Mr. Gachet constructed nine more crows from tire treads for the center. The rubber figures are true-to-life scale, measuring 20 inches from beak to tail with a 2-foot wingspan, Mr. Gachet said.
The birds have been displayed in the center since April.
Mr. Gachet's work may not create a new means to clean up the environment, but it can change the public's perceptions of not only cast-off tire treads—which most believe, rightly or wrongly, are retreads—but of all waste, Mr. Hazelhoff said.
``The essential message is to help redefine trash and waste so that people can start perceiving it as having value,'' Mr. Hazelhoff said.
In the future, Mr. Gachet plans to continue using truck tire treads in his art work. He envisions creating other animals, such as snakes, from the discarded treads, which he said are in abundance along Alabama's highways.
``There's plenty of material (treads). If I wanted to stick with it, I think I could stay in business for a while.''