After weeks of sculpting, gluing and painting on fiberglass replicas of FGCU’s winged mascot, winning artists revealed their finished Azul’s Flight Tour statues in a ceremonial unveiling April 14 at the Veterans Pavilion.
The artists won the opportunity to produce their own creative visions of Azul through a contest sponsored by Student Government and the FGCU Foundation as an opportunity to foster school spirit. Winning designs earned each artist $1,000 and will be displayed at various locations on campus.
The designers include current students, alumni and a local fan of Eagle basketball:
Andrew Corke of Fort Myers, a 2012 FGCU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in art. His eco-friendly design involved cutting used bicycle tires into feather shapes, gluing them to the statue’s surface and then painting them — a technique he uses in his wildlife artwork.
Scott Guelcher of Lehigh Acres, who earned a bachelor’s in liberal studies and art in 2005 and a master’s in education in 2007 at FGCU, paid tribute to the university’s baseball program. His signature painting style incorporates abstract backgrounds and vivid color. Guelcher also was commissioned by FGCU to create an Azul statue in cap and gown for use at events.
Diana Rochez of Fort Myers, a junior at FGCU, chose a basketball-related motif for her Azul. “I was so happy about Dunk City — I really wanted to pay tribute to that,” she says. She’s a biology major but enjoys expressing her creative side with art.
Colleen Solomon of Cape Coral, an avid follower of FGCU’s men’s and women’s hoops teams, played off the Eagles’ “We Bleed Green and Blue” spirit with an armored fighting bird.
Geoffrey Stephens of Spring Green, Wis., who graduated in spring 2015. He covered his Azul with a mosaic of small photographs of people and places on campus that collectively create the color tones of the eagle costume.
Roughly 6 feet 2 inches high and weighing about 150 pounds, the statues presented some creative challenges for the artists.
Corke’s technique usually involves gluing his recycled rubber shapes onto an art-foam base to create realistic-looking wildlife sculptures.
“Fiberglass doesn’t have the pores that foam does that make it stick,” he says. “But I managed to get a good stick.”
While he grew up on Sanibel with an environmentally conscious mindset, he says his experience at FGCU influenced his approach to art and living.
“FGCU really made it apparent to me why we should be sustainable,” Corke says.
Guelcher added 45 yards of fabric to his statue using Monster Mud, a drywall compound mixed with latex paint, to create a flowing graduation gown for Azul. He even decorated the top of the mortar board with a message, as many graduates do at commencement. His baseball homage is equally detailed, down the seams on the uniform and grommets and laces on his shoes.
“Painting underneath the gown was hard — you never know if somebody’s going to look underneath,” he says. “I really built a relationship with my birds. It was a lot of fun.”
Inspired by the fighting spirit that fires up Alico Arena during basketball games, Solomon decked out her Azul in armor from head to talon and painted words from the FGCU fight song on his wings as tattoos. More accustomed to painting on a flat canvas, she did a lot of crouching and crawling to get into the statue’s nooks and crannies. She estimates she spent at least six hours a day for 25 days on the project.
“I’ve never done a statue before – it was a real growing opportunity. The hardest part was giving him a tough look with those big round eyes. I gave him a scowl,” she says. “This project was something I felt passionate about. I think it will be a source of pride for the kids.”
Pieces of “Peaces”
Geoffrey Stephens spent hours and hours photographing people and places on campus to create a mosaic of tiny images to cover his Azul’s Flight Tour statue, “Peaces of The Nest.” To represent appropriate tones, he also had students, faculty and staff hold up colored poster boards when he photographed them. Here are some highlights of the images that he said make up his Azul’s various features:
- Head feathers: White campus signs, vehicles and golf carts, white flowers
- Eyes: An evening sunset over the beachfront
- Bill: Black nostrils are solar panels photographed between the Food Forest and Sugden Welcome Center; the rest of the bill is made up of yellow flowers and artwork.
- Tank top: Blue campus signs, Food Pantry crates
- Tank top symbol: A photo taken of the top of the intersection between Sugden Hall and the connected parking garage, shot from the top floor of the parking garage.
- Wings: Trees, pine cones and leaves
- White wing feathers: Food Forest plant identification signs
- Board shorts: Lily pads, tree leaves, green buildings
- Tail feathers: Silica-based insulation material for spacecraft displayed in Whitaker Hall
- Talons: Yellow campus flowers
- Sneakers: Nature trail sign, pine cone, Food Forest, a campus golf cart, solar panels
- Statue base: Campus trail line facing east towards the baseball stadium.