Artist May Create Sculpture From Storm Debris

A man who transforms ordinary objects into memorable art may get to work with Katrina debris. The Gulfport Downtown Association wants to commission the artist to create a sculpture.

Twisted metal from debris piles could become part of a post-Katrina sculpture in downtown Gulfport.

"Somebody saw my work and thought it would be good to try and use some of what Katrina wrought," said artist Leo Sewell, who sees creative possibilities in the rubble and ruins.

"The bottom line for me is playing with junk. I just love to manner, to use, to understand the found object. And in a sense, I do sculpture to support my habit," he says.

He's been creating "found object" art for more than 40 years. Like his colorful duck decoy, fashioned from various odds and ends.

"You can express what I do in a sentence. I make animals out of junk," Sewell said.

"This is sort of the material that I have most proposed for here: stainless steel objects. I don't know, it's sort of like your beach and the sun and the sea," he said, pointing to a photo of a past project.

Finding scrap steel won't be a problem on the storm damaged coast. Although he's just begun the creative process, the artist does have a few concepts already.

"My best idea at this point, is to use the stainless steel hardware from boats and docks to create an over life size, maybe 24 foot, marlin in the vertical position."

Sewell understands not everyone will appreciate what he creates.

"No matter what you do, somebody's going to have a problem if it's public," he said.

Sewell understands and accepts that challenge. He says the devastation wrought by Katrina remains an "open sore." One aim of his artwork is to hasten the healing.

"I'm an artist, I make statements. But I'm here as best I can to serve what you want, but using my concept of picking up the remains and recreating."

The finished sculpture would likely be displayed somewhere in the middle of downtown Gulfport. The Gulfport Downtown Association is still raising money for the project, which would cost somewhere in the "five figures" range.