Saturday, August 26, 2000

Pig Parade: Topigary

Pilfered porker hogs the spotlight

By Owen Findsen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        This is 120th in a series spotlighting pigs from the Big Pig Gig Public Art Project taking place in Cincinnati, Covington and Newport. Find past pig profiles at

[photo] | ZOOM |
Topigary made news in early June when it was stolen from Piatt Park. The pig was recovered 10 days later. After extensive repairs by artist Leslie Shiels, it returned to the park in late July.

        “I appreciate all the attention I've gotten because of the stolen pig, but I'll be glad when the topic of conversation is what I'm working on now,” the Milford artist says. Her current project is a series of paintings based on the gargoyles that adorn Hughes High School.

        Ms. Shiels, 49, also created Pig Bird, for WCET (Channel 48), at the Newport Aquarium.

        Sponsor: Betsy La Macchia for the Civic Garden Center.

        This pig's pen: Piatt Park. “Tamara Harkavy (director of ArtWorks) and I decided that we would put the pig back in its original place in Piatt Park. We thought it was an important statement. This is where it was planted and this is where it will grow.”

        What's the pig idea? “It is a topiary, like you find in English gardens. Because it is for the Civic Garden Center, it is a planting, sculpted to look like a pig, so it is covered with flowers and foliage.

        “It is growing out of a large, concrete flower pot. ... There are wrought iron vines with iron leaves, made by a blacksmith friend, Kevin Snider.

        “When I got the pig back, it was in pieces. Things were broken off. Things were missing. There were big scrapes where it was dragged across the concrete. I didn't know if it could be fixed, but everybody was so supportive. Eric Kilb at the Glass Hand said, "Whatever it takes.' Mr. Snider made new wrought iron vines and leaves.

        “There still is some damage, so I've added a few things. It has a tear coming out of its eye now, and there is a snake on its rear end to cover the scrape marks where it was dragged.

        “I've got a Pollyanna attitude about this. Despite the setbacks, I think a lot of good is coming out of this project, and we can't let a few bad eggs ruin it.”

        You want people to look at this pig and think: “About who these people who made the pigs are, and what else they are doing. If these artists could create these pigs, there must be magic behind their doors.”

        Best pig tale: “When the police recovered my pig, I went to get it in my pickup truck. While I was driving on the expressway with the pig in back, people were waving, honking their horns and giving me thumbs up. I really appreciated that.”

        My favorite pork dish: “I don't eat snout, but my favorite pork is the Paul Brown Stadium.”


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- Pig Parade: Topigary
Tristate A.M. Report