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Gaffer District Art

Tom Gardner - 1/1/2013

     Visitors to Corning strolling often find themselves not just the restored buildings of the Gaffer District, but the unique array of decorative signs and other adornments on the District’s buildings.  Two that get special attention are Artemis, the buffalo smashing its way out of the wall on the Rockwell Museum and the Critic…the bas-relief sculpture on the side of 87 West Market Street.  Both are creations of local artist Tom Gardner.

     The bas-relief artistry got its impetus when the building adjacent to Gardner’s shop at 87 West Market Street was taken down, leaving behind an exposed solid wall of red brick.  It was like an empty canvas to Gardner, and it “needed something”…but what?  After a lengthy period of considering alternatives, he found his inspiration in a shop on Skyline Drive in Virginia -- a caricature-faced coffee mug that, the instant he saw it, provided a “Eureka moment.”

            The trick then was to super-size that face onto the west wall of his building.  It was no small feat and turned out to be the forerunner of an even more eye-catching creation, Artemis, the buffalo crashing through the exterior of the Rockwell Museum.  Both the pouty Critic and the life-sized Artemis are “must sees” on any tour of the Gaffer District.

            Retirees at the CIRG January coffee program in the Riverfront Café were treated to Gardner’s insight and tale of how those two creations progressed from idea to drawing-board to production and installation. None of that progress was easy.  It involved finding suitable facilities to bring the drawings to life as three-dimensional fixtures of considerable proportion and then to get them mounted on the buildings.

            Photos wouldn't do it justice so Gardner mounted a chair and demonstrated how he had to guide the positioning of Artemis from the platform of a wobbly lift platform.  One can only wonder how many in the audience ever thought they would see a man who was “distinguished” making like a high-wire performer on a chair in the Riverfront Café.  Nevertheless, there he was, as the photo shows. To be sure, it gave his audience a great appreciation for the effort involved in creating those notable additions to the Gaffer District.

            The casual stroller through the Gaffer District is sure to note some other touches of Gardner’s creative bent in helping merchants on the street showcase their wares…from limp watches to dangling posies and more…all to be seen above the level of the shop windows themselves.

NOT A HIGH WIRE ACT IMPERSONATION – Tom Gardner mounted a Riverfront Café chair to demonstrate to his audience the precarious position he found himself in as Artemis, the raging buffalo, was affixed to the exterior of the Rockwell Museum.  Below: The Crditic; Artemis; and the Limp Clock on the West End Gallery storefront.

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