It started by doing a simple chore. Artist Jerrod Mays was digging around outside, cleaning up the yard of his French Camp home when a large black widow pulled itself out of a dark shadow and revealed its fat self to Mays.
Most people would try to kill the giant spider. Or run. But the curious and intrigued Mays caught the black widow and kept it in a jar. In his work studio, he studied the feared spider, twisting and flipping the jar to grasp and understanding of the spiders details, from the big eyes to the slight curve of the eight legs.
It was around the same time that Mays visited San Francisco and was deeply inspired by Louise Bourgeois' 4,333-pound sculpture "Crouching Spider."
"When I saw that, I said, 'I have to go home and do that,'" said Mays, who finalized his decision to build his giant spider, "Crazy Legs," when he caught the live one in his yard.
Mays is a metal sculpture artist, who learned what he calls "farm welding" from his father before he took classes at San Joaquin Delta College. He creates pieces of art from metal, but he also works on Chopper motorcycles. Mays is best known around Lodi for designing and creating "Better Days," the bus stop pergola on Lodi Avenue that includes handmade benches, grape clusters and offers shade to anyone who sits under it. Mays was commissioned by the Lodi Arts Commission to make the Arts in Public Places structure for $80,000. The structure was installed and dedicated last November.
"Crazy Legs" emerged from the Lodi pergola project. Most of the materials were left scraps from the pergola. Each curve of the legs between the purposely jagged joints are slightly curved using a $13,000 machine Mays bought when he made "Better Days."
The sloped big body of the giant spider is a an old air compressor tank that Mays picked up at a garage sale, and the eyes are small, orange motorcycle blinkers.
Mays describes his style as using 25 percent found art, 50 percent of his pure fabrication and the last 25 percent is nature, such as his style of rusted metal.
The spider is four-and-a-half-feet tall and the legs measure seven-to-eight feet in a circular pattern that makes the black widow appear to be in motion. Mays can stand on the structure without it budging because it's engineered the way he learned from the spider he kept in the jar.
Though metal work started as a hobby, Mays' art is becoming well known — perhaps more than he ever expected.
"Crazy Legs" was chosen as Best of Show from amongst 380 pieces submitted for the Lodi Community Art Center's 50th Annual Spring Art Show this weekend. "Crazy Legs," along with the other chosen works, will be on display today and Sunday at Woodbridge Winery from noon to 5 p.m. both days. Art in the show is made by Lodi-area artists, as well as artists from Merced, Sacramento, the Bay Area and the Mother Lode.
The Spring Art Show is one of the biggest events of the year for the Arts Center. Rich Allen, artist and art show chairman, says that the fact that this is the 50th anniversary of the event shows that the center has become an institution in Lodi. More than 300 pieces of art will be on display, including works by Ning Hou, Rami Kim and Marlene Heinz.
Pieces entered in the annual show, and judged by artists Ning Hou, Ronald Walker and Deanna Hunt. Artists submitted water media, sculpture, photography, pastel, oils, graphics, acrylics and mixed media.
Sam Bassett and Pepe Pool are winner for Best Sculpture for their collaborative outdoor piece. The Lodi artists are known for their modular art made of reinforced concrete. The winning piece, "Squished," is of a thick black circle on a podium being squished by a heavy white concrete circle. In each of their pieces, Bassett and Pool use pigment from China to color the concrete so it is colored all the way through and will not fade if displayed outdoors. They first make a master shape by carving plaster and create a molding with urethane rubber molds.
Bassett and Pool feel honored that their witty black and white, two-piece sculpture stood out to the judges.
"This art show is by far the biggest (show around)," Bassett said. "It's very important because the judging is of such high quality that the show has a prestige that other shows don't have."
Artist Marilyn Eger shows her work most often at the Knowlton Gallery, but several of her paintings can be viewed at Spring Art Show this week, including her painting, "San Francisco at Dusk," which was chosen as the winner for Best Oils.
50th annual Spring Art ShowWhen: Today and Sunday from Noon to 5 p.m.
Where: Woodbridge Winery, 5950 E. Woodbridge Road.
Information: 333-3385, http://www.lodiartcenter.org">www.lodiartcenter.org.
AwardsBest of Show
Jerrod Mays, French Camp
Best Water Media
Edwin Haas, Stockton
Sam Bassett and Pepe Pool, Lodi
Michael Randolph, Stockton
CJ Meyer, Rio Vista
Marilyn Eger, Acampo
Don Hall, Turlock
Bob De Ment, Stockton
The painting shows the San Francisco skyline during one of Eger's favorite hours of the day.
"It's that transient period of time when the sky is gorgeous," she said.
Each piece in the show is unique to the creator's style. William Hamblin created "Around the Corner," a mixed media, three-dimensional painting that pops off the canvas. Mira Woodworth gave her own interpretation of Waters Law with a unique sculpture. Mary Lois Thompson earned honorable mention for "Hubble Fix," her large space painting.
In addition to each of the selected pieces, there will be special exhibits, including a display of wearable art and food and wine tasting and a showing of art by student scholarship winners.