Art is in the eye of the beholder. One person’s concept of a great sculpture might leave someone else scratching his or her head. But most people can agree on something that is different, unusual and even bizarre. A great sculpture can fit all of those descriptions. We set out to find some of the strangest pieces of sculpture along American highways. Some of them really are fantastic pieces of art; a couple are pure kitsch, worthy of a mini-golf layout. They’re all so unusual you’d stop the car to post a selfie to Instagram.
10. Prada Marfa (Valentine, Texas)
No, it’s not an upscale Prada store that opened in remote West Texas. Artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset billed this as a “pop architectural land art” sculpture when they unveiled it in 2005. Miuccia Prada herself even provided her trendy handbags and shoes for the sculpture, and allowed the use of the Prada name. Not surprisingly, thieves and vandals soon struck the sculpture on Hwy. 90, forcing some security precautions (the bags now have no bottoms).
9. Giant Abraham Lincoln Head (Laramie, Wyo.)
It’s not exactly the Lincoln Memorial, but this tribute to Abraham Lincoln is enough to make anyone traveling along I-80 near Laramie pull over for a closer look at the Lincoln Monument Rest Stop. Many years ago, the giant head sculpture sat at the highest point along the coast-to-coast Lincoln Highway, but it’s been at its current location since I-80 opened in the late 1960s.
8. Fremont Troll (Seattle)
Remember the old fairy tale Three Billy Goats Gruff, starring the troll under the bridge? There really is a giant troll living under a bridge in Seattle. Located under the George Washington Memorial Bridge, the 18-foot-high Fremont Troll is made of steel, concrete, rebar and wire. Unlike many sculptures that are hands-off, visitors can climb all over this sculpture.
7. Enchanted Highway (North Dakota)
The enormous “Grasshoppers in the Field” is one of eight giant sculptures erected along a 32-mile stretch of a two-lane county highway in the southwestern part of North Dakota. The Enchanted Highway sculptures are the brainchild of local artist Gary Greff, who started the project in 1989. Among other enormous sculptures along the highway are pheasants, deer, geese, and an ode to state hero Teddy Roosevelt.
6. Lady in the Lake (Elberta, Alabama)
Fiberglass artist Mark Cline’s Enchanted Castle Studios has created many unusual sculptures through the years, but this might be the strangest. The so-called Lady in the Lake has been floating at Barber Marina on Alabama’s Gulf Coast since 2012. Cline told RoadsideAmerica.com her face is a combination of country singer Sara Evans and actress Catherine Zeta-Jones. One slight problem: the man who commissioned the sculpture wanted a 50-foot-tall woman; if Cline’s sculpture stood up, she’d be more than 100 feet tall.
5. Knotted Gun Sculpture (New York City)
Swiss artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd decided to make this sculpture after the 1982 shooting death of his friend, John Lennon. The original sculpture here is at the United Nations headquarters, but there are more than a dozen copies of it around the world. The sculpture’s official name is Non-Violence.
4. Blue Mustang (Denver International Airport)
Much has been written about the strange murals, statues and other weird features at Denver’s airport. Conspiracy theorists point to everything from alien invaders to leaders of a New World Order as being the real architects of the airport. Even without all that conspiracy talk, the 32-foot-tall sculpture dubbed “Blue Mustang” is creepy enough. Take one look at those demonic-looking eyes and black veins and you can see why locals were freaked out when the sculpture made its public debut in 2008. If the appearance isn’t strange enough, consider this — the horse actually killed its creator, Luis Jimenez. He died when a piece of the 9,000-pound sculpture fell on him in 2006. No wonder locals call the horse “Blucifer.”
3. Keeper of the Plains (Wichita, Kansas)
This 44-foot-tall steel sculpture is a tribute to the Native Americans who once inhabited the Plains states. Artist Blackbear Bosin’s creation has been a landmark in a park at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers since 1974. The Keeper of the Plains is a particularly striking sight at nightfall, when fire pits surrounding the base are lit and illuminate the sculpture.
2. Sky Bloom (Phoenix)
Most people have no idea what this is at first glance. Is it supposed to represent a multicolored tornado? A fancy cocktail glass? Whatever your interpretation, this 100-foot-tall sculpture has dominated Downtown Civic Space Park in Phoenix since it opened in 2009. Artist Janet Echelman says she drew inspiration from the enormous cumulus clouds in the region, and the colorful blooms of the area’s cereus cactus. She created the floating sculpture by attaching polyester to steel rings and towers; the fact the project used $2.5 million in public funding still irks some local residents. The colored lighting makes it an awe-inspiring sight after dark. While Echelman dubbed her work “Her Secret is Patience” it’s better known as Sky Bloom.
1. Metalmorphosis (Charlotte)
Czech sculptor David Cerny created a brilliant, 30-foot-tall sculpture with rotating stainless-steel plates; when they align, you’ve got a surreal-looking, mirrored human head. Oh, it’s a fountain, too. This amazing sculpture is in a business park just off I-77 near the South Carolina line. It’s a must-see site if you’re travelling through the area.