October 7, 2014

Indy Artist Makes Peace From Instruments of War

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Firefighter and metal artist Ryan Feeney, with the Peace Dove, in his studio.

Firefighter and metal artist Ryan Feeney, with the Peace Dove, in his studio.

For the last few weeks, a small-scale replica of “The Peace Dove” – a sculpture made from the parts of confiscated guns – has been making its way around to library branches. On Tuesday, the full-size sculpture, created by artist Ryan Feeney, was released into public view. 

"There’s not that many people that can say they love both of their jobs. There’s a lot of people out there that hate their one job, but I’m lucky enough to have two jobs that I absolutely love," Feeney said.

Feeney fell in love with sculpture – particularly metal work – as a student at Miami of Ohio. He worked as a graphic designer and artist … and for the last 15 years, he’s been doing double duty as an Indianapolis firefighter – assigned now to station 10 at 30th and Sherman -- and the owner of Indy Art Forge.

"There is a lot of downtime as a firefighter, you are busy. Your busy time is when everybody is asleep. We work 24 hours and you take a break when you get it," Feeney said.

Feeney may be getting a bit of a reputation as the “public safety” sculptor in Indianapolis – he created the Fallen Deputy Memorial in front of the Marion County Jail, as well as the bronze eagle at the Indianapolis 9/11 memorial. But perhaps his most challenging work to date is the 650-pound dove, made of gun parts that were toted into his shop in five-gallon buckets.

"If you can just imagine, on top of a four-foot pedestal is a dove with a nine-foot-six wingspan. The wings are outstretched and it has an olive branch in its mouth and is off of a World War II Russian rifle and it has a bayonet. So it’s anything but a peace stick. And then I’ve used pieces of shotguns as the actual leaves."

Up close, it's obvious that the sculpture is made of gun parts. But from a distance, it's a different story.

"If you get back 30 feet on this … there are several people who have approached it, and as they get closer they say, 'oh! Those are guns,' and that was my intention," Feeney said.

Marion County Sheriff John Layton knew he wanted to create something from the confiscated guns that would honor the victims of gun violence and their families. At first, they thought about melting down the guns and casting a sculpture. But then the peace dove idea took shape instead. Its frame is made of half-inch steel. Feeney likens it to the outline of a coloring book picture – which he then ‘colored in’ using guns parts. He also had to figure out a way to make the big bird stand on little bird legs.

"The hardest part was to get the look that you don’t have to have something else holding it up. The feet are triggers, and the tail as it curls around acts as another stabilizing point," he said.

Feeney worked on the Peace Dove off and on since May – and part of the process is documented in his reality TV show “Modern Day Blacksmith” which began airing this weekend on WNDY. 

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