Calendar symbols in downtown Creston’s ‘Zodiac Totem’

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The bottom two figures in 'Zodiac Totem'.

With Zodiac Totem, located in front of Creston Valley Realty, Pokey Park gives us not one of her whimsical, distinctive animal bronzes but five. Representing symbols from the Japanese and Chinese calendars, Park has substituted animals native to her American southwest milieu as she sees fit. The result is a sumptuous totem of animal figures standing nine feet tall and full of rich detail.

Park was raised on the coastal bays of Georgia. There she developed an early appreciation and love for both animals and art — passions she has melded into a successful career as one of the best-known U.S. wildlife sculptors.

Her works are immediately recognizable. She infuses her animal sculptures with human characteristics, making them endearing and engaging. A trademark of her animal representations is the yoga-like contortions they assume, yet remain immediately identifiable.

“I try to express the underlying joy in the world in my sculptures,” she said.

In this configuration of the many zodiac totems she has sculpted, five figures sit atop one another. Anchoring the totem is a blissful frog basking on a lily pad with carp circling beneath it. The base represents both Pisces and Aquarius, the water signs essential to all life. Above is a delightful desert rat, tail curled behind an ear and paws framing its face.

Next is the ox, head down and delicately balanced on front hoofs. Moving upward, we find the puma – substituting for the tiger – head aslant, paws clutching its haunches in a ball and long tail providing balance. Finally, the totem is topped with a curled rabbit, one long hind leg scratching its ear and tail front and centre.

“The variety of the animal kingdom, combined with the cultural mythology that I attempt to inject into each sculpture, provides endless inspiration,”she says. “I use the flow of lines and surface patterns to emphasize movement and balance. Particularly in the totems, as their linear nature demands that the positioning I choose for each animal accentuates that balance.”

Particularly appealing to the viewer is that each of the totem’s figures can be acquired as an individual work. Indeed, any of Park’s 12 compelling totem figures can be combined to form a one-of-a-kind, personalized totem like Zodiac Totem.

Zodiac Totem is one of three Castlegar SculptureWalk pieces brought to Creston by the Creston Valley Public Arts Connection Society. The others are 30 Birds (2) and Bad Hair Day.