Although his name is COVID, this folk art statue’s inspiration comes from long before the pandemic. Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard

B.C. artist erects 15-foot statue and names it COVID

Decades of collecting spare parts culminated in folk art towering over a country road

Towering over a chainlink fence with snow-covered mountains rising from behind, an imposing 15-foot metal figure named COVID has been erected in a quiet neighbourhood in Hope.

“He turned out to be a little bit bigger than I thought. A little uglier and mean-looking. So when this virus started, I said, ‘why don’t I just name him COVID?’” said Ray Slanzi, the man behind the work.

Yet the inspiration behind the impressive peice of folk art in a yard along Elder Road stretches back long before the pandemic Slanzi explained. It’s a project Slanzi, a former heavy duty mechanic, has wanted to complete for the last 20 years.

Only this past winter did he have the time to dedicate to it and the materials to make it a reality. Taking advantage of the bad weather, Slanzi got to work.

Building COVID took about three months – Slanzi spent about five to six hours a day working under a roof in his back yard. He began by making a skeleton from old mining pipes, starting with the legs.

“I made the legs just a little bit taller than I should have. In order to keep it proportional, I ended up making the torso much bigger than I expected. Next thing you know, now it’s 15 feet,” he said.

Following in the folk art tradition, COVID is constructed using a range of repurposed materials either welded together or bolted on. What is added is up to the imagination of the artist.

“You start adding whatever comes to your mind and your imagination and that’s one thing I do have is imagination,” Slanzi said.

The figure’s head is the fanhood of a kitchen stove Slanzi hung onto when it was replaced, his belt buckle is an umbrella stand he and his wife Karen have had around for 20 years. Some of COVID’s parts had to be painted, others retain their original colour.

“There’s all kinds of parts – there’s compressor parts, boat parts. There is even my wife’s pasta maker on it,”Slanzi explained. “He’s got a bit of a beard made out of chainlink fencing and there’s kind of a stainless steel chain for a necklace. And right underneath it you see a chrome thing, that’s my wife’s (hand crank) pasta maker.”

The figure’s fishnet-looking “armour” is made with a neighbour’s old fencing material fastened onto COVID’s frame with chrome rings from a wine barrel.

COVID is armed with a replica Winchester that took Slanzi almost a month to build. It helps the statue to stand up, as do the channel iron feet welded to the skeleton. COVID’s legs are balanced for maximum stability and there are bars bolted down to concrete achors an inch below ground. “So he’ll be a permanent fixture there for a long time,” Slanzi said.

One thing viewers from the road won’t see, is a secret compartment inside the chest of this repurposed metal warrior.

Inspired by his grandchildren, who range in age from three to 25, Slanzi put a door on the figure’s back just above the belt. The space inside can hold two children five feet tall. “They can actually crawl in there and sit inside and they can scare people when they go by,” Slanzi said.

Ray and Karen are isolating and have been for weeks, but once the virus subsides they’ll welcome the grandkids inside.

Slanzi insists he’s not an artist. Yet like many creators who finally finish their pieces after months and years of painstaking work, Slanzi said he is mighty glad to be done.

“I said to my wife ‘If I ever start something like that again, just hit me over the head with a frying pan’ because that was just a little bit much,” he said.

Slanzi is happy for people to come view Hope’s newest peice of folk art, but he prefers they admire COVID from the road outside the fence.

ArtCoronavirusHope

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Ray Slanzi is the artist behind the 15-foot folk art statue on Elder Road. Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard

Just Posted

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Golden police seek Good Samaritan after house fire

An unidentified individual may have saved lives in the early-morning fire.

Revelstoke lawyer uses her good fortune to help others

For Melissa Klages, lawyer and owner of Arrow Law Corporation, being a… Continue reading

Revelstoke maternity team keeps mom grounded during COVID-19

Melyssa Hudson gave birth to her second child April 29

Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for May 21

Items from Revelstoke newspapers, as gleaned and edited by Cathy English, curator… Continue reading

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Vancouver Foundation grants benefit Okanagan-Shuswap residents

Grants of up to $500 available for ideas that connect people socially or involve sharing skills

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Water quality advisory rescinded for Central Okanagan system

Turbidity levels improve enough to rescind advisory issued for Killiney Beach system May 11

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

UPDATE: Two sent to hospital following Okanagan highway accident

Drivers in head-on collision air-lifted to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries

Most Read