Artist recycling toys into grand sculptures

IMG_0555By Dana Delgado

 Accomplished and self-proclaimed “Pixilated Artist” Terry Parks (aka Terry Tunes) is onto something wildly new at his rural home studio in Liberty Hill.  

That something, which has been two years in the making, amounts to a collection of amazing sculptures bordering bizarre but impressively creative.

“It’s the ‘Keep Austin Weird’ in me,” said Parks who was born and raised in Austin and lived the Austin lifestyle for much of his life.

The eccentric, bohemian and very up-beat artist has been toying with a multitude of off-the-wall creative projects including some small wooden “TV Box” sculptures that incorporate intriguing objects and natural materials.  While the materials are uniquely arranged and reflect Terry’s creative genius, it’s the underlying message or theme of each box, which is both provocative and powerful, that draws you in.

Although seemingly inexplicable and simply weird, it is Parks’ way of challenging one’s senses and reaching into the recesses of one’s mind and personal experience. Not only is he a talented and an imaginative artist, he is a wordsmith master that intertwines words with music and culture to produce a life revelation and provides for serious introspection. Most of his ideas, he says, come from listening to music.

“I just do what inspires me with art,” Tunes said, but his wife had a different take.

“I never know what I’m going to find when I get home,” says Sue Lacy, Terry’s wife. “It’s crazy.”

Parks is also a furniture craftsman and for a while had a store in Georgetown. He also has grown interested in carving objects with Native American themes and has made a few caskets for family members who wanted a green burial.

“I love working with wood,” said Terry, who also relishes peeling and using the bark off tree branches and collecting armadillo tails to incorporate into his small creations.

Knotholes are also a favorite thing to use because of their character.

He is eager to share and show his intricate wooden creations, but the larger-than-life, oversized sculptures are what have him motivated these days because they are out on his property for everyone to see as they drive by.

“I love that people get to see my work instead of sitting on a shelf or sitting in a closet,” he said. “It also slows down the cars, too, but I really appreciate that people are interested in my art and that it makes them happy.”

To come across these sculptures on San Gabriel Road while driving by is a surreal feeling. The synergy between the sun and the trees add to the drama with an array of ever-changing light rays filtering through that glisten off the artistic pieces.

On much closer inspection of the sculptures, your jaw drops.

You are awestruck because unexpectedly, you find hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of tiny plastic toys of all kinds from superheroes to toy trucks to animal figures to Barbie dolls fastidiously fastened to cover every inch of the frames of each of the sculptures.

“I thought about covering the sculptures with light bulbs to light up at night but then I thought what a hassle that would be changing them out,” Parks said.  “Besides, plastic lasts a long time, is waterproof and cheap and I’m recycling the toys.”

Two years ago while rummaging through his storeroom, he came across a ready supply of toys to get him started.

“I had some toys that I would take with me to play with the kids at family reunions and had been keeping some doll body parts I got from my mother’s house when she passed away. She had been a doll maker,” he said.

Surprising to the artist, people who closely exam his sculptures are often equally moved by the sculpture design as well as by the toys themselves that cover the frame.

“You have to remember that we were all kids at one time and we all played with toys,” Parks said. “Sometimes, people see a toy on my sculptures that brings back fond memories. If I do that I’m happy. It’s about making people happy.”

Parks likes to use a twist of the macabre in some sculptures, but most revolve around music or cultural themes.  All of his off-the-wall art pieces, however, are always clever and outrageously witty, and yes, at times deep.

To really understand the objects is to understand the artist. The 60-something Parks has a larger than life grasp of life with an abundance of energy, is big-hearted and sincerely generous and very much connected with nature and people.

Terry’s art influences came from his mother who had been an artist during her lifetime, as well as his middle school woodshop teacher who inspired him to be creative.

“When I was young, I loved to paint and draw,” he said. “I would save a lot of my money from my paper route to buy art supplies.”

In 1974, he began a property search to build a home.  Liberty Hill was his first stop and his last.

“When I saw this tree (large oak tree) on the property, it was like I was struck by lightning,” he said.  “I knew I wanted this lot and didn’t go anywhere else.”

Terry with the help of his younger brother Scott built his Liberty Hill home from the ground up by harvesting many of the raw materials from the area.  The brothers added bohemian touches and blended in artistic accents like stain glass windows.  Where he could, Terry reused trees or branches removed to construct the house.  It’s an interesting piece of art in its own right.

In 1984, Terry married Sue McKown Lacy.  They had met a year earlier when they were both cooks at the old Threadgill’s Restaurant in Austin.  Sue says they really got to know each other when they were literally locked into the kitchen at the restaurant to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for customers.

Throughout his life, Terry has been heavily vested in the music scene in Austin.  He would do artistic work for various bands and lived and loved the vibes of the music scene until a health issue put the skids on his lifestyle and life’s work.

Parks was diagnosed with Hepatitis and given six months to live. With the help of family and a dog he didn’t want but his wife got for him anyway, Terry “Tunes” Parks realized he needed to make some life adjustments. Returning to his previous work pace was not an option. He became bored and restless.

Terry and his brother Scott brainstormed some ideas and soon after, the music vibes and artistic juices that once resonated strongly in him, returned and he began to create again. That was 10 years ago.

After a series of projects, his wildly imaginative sculptures might well be his major breakthrough. Among them is freakish-looking sculpture of a mass of doll heads and body parts mounted on sticks titled “Leave Your Body Behind.” This was one of his first sculptures that from afar resembles a flock of flamingos.

The sculptures that followed, however, have been more in the vein of music and culture; after all, that’s been Terry’s lifeblood. Among them are a nearly eight-foot tall guitar sculpture titled “Woodstock 45” and a nine-foot tall Peace Sign Sculpture titled “For What it’s Worth.”

Another is a nine-foot tall banana sculpture designed as a play on an old Andy Warhol album cover. This one is titled “Exploding Plastic Inevitable.”

Others on exhibit on his property are the Hat Sculpture titled “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowgirls,” the High Heel Slipper Sculpture titled “The Low Sparks of High-Heeled Toys,” and the Easter Island Sculpture titled “Easter Island Everywhere.”

There is also a massive 20-foot Cow’s Skull Longhorn Sculpture that captivates with Barbie dolls covering the horns.

The newest project and in-progress in a back work area is a 10-foot Pistol Sculpture inspired by an Austin band Black Angels and one of their songs, “Don’t Play with Guns.”  Yet another project, a 15-foot Tepee Sculpture sits idle with frame only in the far back of the property waiting to be outfitted.

In the center of all the sculptures is a small rock mound with a staked sign.  The sign names the site of his collection of works and peculiarly identifies himself.  The sign proclaims: “Itchycoo Park -Pixilated Artist.”

This weekend, the Pixilated Artist will exhibit his sculptures and demonstrate his work at Legacy Antiques and Estate Auctions, 2023 Loop 332. The exhibit is scheduled for Friday through Sunday, September 27-29, from 10 a.m to 6 p.m.

“I’m really excited to have him show his sculptures and demonstrate his work,” said Legacy owner Melissa Fiero. Ms. Fiero was one of those curious people who happened to drive by the Parks’ property and stopped to explore.

“He is such a wonderful person and talented artist.  To help him out we encourage people to drop off toys which he recycles in his sculptures,” she said, adding that other arts and crafts supplies will also be available.

“It’s all been great therapy,” said Parks who says he is happier than ever, very much at peace and ready to let go of some of the sculptures. They are for sale and he will take special orders. He can be reached at suelacy@sbcglobal.net or you can visit him at his home studio at 208 San Gabriel Road off County Road 214 in Liberty Hill.