When you first glimpse Dan Klennert’s Recycled Spirits of Iron Sculpture Park on your way to Mount Rainier National Park, you might just brake to a stop. And if you don’t, we guarantee you will want to when the next opportunity arises.
Peering over the fence you may wonder, “What IS this place?” In Latin “Ex-Nihilo” translates to “something created from nothing.” The park is a random collection of animals, monsters, motorcycle riders, and structures – all wrought from the imagination and materials found by the artist.
Go ahead, drive-in, and allow plenty of time for your journey through Spirits of Iron. Klennert has worked for years to create this garden, though he’ll tell you that making art seldom feels like workdays pass like hours when he’s inspired.
The yard is his canvas – his tools are his imagination, welding skills and junk others have discarded or forgotten. The garden has something for all ages – children will fall under the fairy-tale spell of dinosaurs, adults will also find themselves smiling, some may find some of the spirits a little unsettling. Art is not always “pretty.” The purpose of art is not only to make “something” from “nothing” or create beauty; it can also incite and inspire one to think.
In a word, the Sculpture Park is astonishing – there is no place like it. You may feel as though you’ve walked into the studio of a surrealist when you see a giant sea horse fashioned from horseshoes, deer fashioned from “found” wood, a metallic bird just hatched from a giant egg, all scattered amongst disparate objects (gas pumps, logging wheels, wildflowers, bird boxes and lots of “and more”).
Klennert’s material is anything he finds ranging from incomprehensible shapes of rusty metal to animal skulls and jawbones or “junk” others have tossed. He scours abandoned farms and junkyards for much of his material. Animals fashioned from driftwood stand peacefully in the lush grass; nearby a skeleton rides a chopper motorcycle (entitled “The Angel From Hell”), a skier poised to ski, and a rock musician about to strum a chord.
According to Dan, he’s been collecting “junk” since he was a kid; he worked as a mechanic in his 20s. Klennert’s mechanical skills combined with his love of sprockets, gears, and metal resulted in this artistic meltdown scattered throughout his property and the region.
Dan has since passed the baton to a new resident artist, Jay Bechtold. Jay has been hard at work. He’s produced new pieces already on display and has decided to keep the sculpture park open to the public on a year-round basis now. Dan and Jay hope to collaborate on a future piece together, a 60-foot seahorse! That will be exciting to see!
Dan Klennert now resides in warmer parts of the U.S. His work has been displayed throughout the United States including Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, and Canada. Once you’ve visited the Sculpture Park you’ll recognize Dan’s art when you see it – look for one of his sculptures at the McDonalds in Graham along Highway SR 516.
The park is continually evolving; one visit cannot begin to capture it all. Include the Sculpture Park as part of your Mount Rainier experience. Please leave a donation.
For lodging near the sculpture park click here.