Crowd Packs Metal Menagerie Show at Mesa Library

Community members filled the upstairs gallery at Mesa Public Library for Wednesday’s opening reception of the Metal Menagerie Show. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Scrap Metal Artists Richard Swenson, left, and David Trujillo speak with Marsha Gilford, vice president public affairs for Smith’s Food and Drug Centers. Gilford is in Los Alamos visiting County officials and local business owners. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

By Bonnie J. Gordon

Metal Menagerie, showcasing the work of two Los Alamos metal sculptors, David Trujillo and Richard Swenson, opened Wednesday, Jan. 16 to a large crowd in Mesa Public Library’s upstairs gallery.

The show presents a wide array of sculptures from whimsical rabbits to majestic dragons, ranging from the petite to nearly life-size.  

Kokopelli sculpture by David Trujillo. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

The artists are neighbors and good friends. Trujillo keeps his tools in Swenson’s garage.

“I wanted to do this when I retired,” Trujillo said. “I was inspired by sculptor John Brolley, who was also a neighbor. Then Richard became a mentor.”

The two men both had long careers in technical fields before becoming full-time artists. Swenson had a 30-year career in nuclear reactor physics and acoustic research in support of anti-submarine warfare and Trujillo did civil and structural engineering at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Swenson grew up on a North Dakota farm and in 1977, bought and operated a farm while continuing his high tech career. In 2000, he began welding miscellaneous scraps from his farm and leftovers from his John Deere tractor restoration projects into the animals he grew up with and some that live only in his imagination.

Harley Davidson parts became the “Harley Hog.”  Timing chains, gears and other mechanical parts seem to bring a sense of movement to Swenson’s pieces. They prance and dance and slither although they don’t actually move. It’s also fun to try and guess where the parts came from.

Swenson’s work is on display in galleries, parks and museums around the U.S., including “Walking Man,” a larger than life sculpture in Audobon Park in New Orleans. That work will soon be joined by “Running Man.”

Trujillo is a native New Mexican. In addition to whimsical animals, Trujillo has three swords in the exhibit, one of which, “Don Diego’s Sword,” is a replica of a sword that might have been carried by Don Diego Trujillo when he came to New Mexico around 1631.

Trujillo also has one of his large Kokopelli sculptors in the show. This Kokopelli is kicking up his heals and seems to be dancing to his own tune.

Trujillo often incorporates rocks into his sculptures. The juxtaposition of the natural with the mechanical brings a special twist to his metal constructions.

Trujillo’s work was included in last year’s Contemporary Spanish Market and will be on display at the Market again this year.

The opening attracted a large and enthusiastic crowd. The event, also a Chamber Fan Club gathering, was hosted by Friends of the Library and catered deliciously by Peggy Pendergast. The show continues through Feb. 27.

Swenson and Trujillo’s work can also be seen (and purchased) at Karen Wray Fine Art, 1475 Central Ave. in downtown Los Alamos. 

Scrap Metal Artist Richard Swenson with the 150 lb. dragon sculpture that he created in about three weeks. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Scrap Metal Artist David Trujillo chats with art patrons including County Parks Division Manager Richard McIntyre, second from right and his wife and former County Councilor Mike Wheeler. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

From left, Los Alamos Artist Patricia Kokesh, Engineer Steve Sorenson of Smith’s Food and Drug Centers, Member Services Coordinator Katy Korkos and Peggy Pendergast who catered Wednesday’s Metal Menagerie Opening Reception at Mesa Public Library. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Sea Horse by Scrap Metal Artist Richard Swenson. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Sculptures by Scrap Metal Artist David Trujillo fill the aisle in the upstairs gallery at Mesa Public Library. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Cat by Scrap Metal Artist Richard Swenson. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

Fish by Scrap Metal Artist Richard Swenson. Photo by Carol A. Clark/

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