A new critter is about to arrive at the corner of Marshall Way and Indian School Road as One-Eyed Jack, a 26-foot-high, 20,000-pound jackrabbit sculpture makes his debut on Wednesday, Sept. 19. This white-painted steel sculpture was commissioned by Scottsdale Public Art.
One-Eyed Jack is the creation of Tempe-based artist John Randall Nelson. The origins of this piece go back to 2014 with a group of business and property owners along Marshall Way, between Indian School Road and Fifth Avenue. They formed a stakeholders group to secure funding from the Scottsdale City Council for an entryway feature that would encourage residents and visitors to stop and explore the businesses along Marshall Way.
Scottsdale Public Art was charged with the task of bringing this project to realization. After a lengthy public comment process, Nelson’s proposal was chosen, in part, for its eye-catching design. At night, the piece will be lit with a soft LED glow, designed to accentuate the planes and angles of the sculpture.
“The long-awaited installation of John Randall Nelson’s One-Eyed Jack is very exciting,” said Kathy Duley, a member of the Scottsdale Public Art Advisory Board. “Much like the LOVE sculpture on the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, this piece is sure to become an icon on Marshall Way. By attracting visitors and locals alike, it will encourage people to explore the businesses located on the street, raising awareness of this charming area of Old Town Scottsdale.”
Nelson’s design mixes the Southwest appeal of an iconic desert animal with the modern aesthetic of nearby contemporary art galleries. The sculpture references both the desert agrarian roots of the Scottsdale area and the modern hustle and bustle of the arts and shopping district, including the weekly Scottsdale ArtWalk on Thursday nights.
The sculpture is connected to Nelson’s time as a painting student at Arizona State University in the 1980s and ’90s. During that time, Nelson said he “dutifully” attended many of the opening exhibitions at the galleries in Old Town Scottsdale.
“It was crazy-busy with art openings every Thursday night,” Nelson said. “Artists like James Turrell, Fritz Scholder and Luis Jimenez were the art stars. It was party central back then. We all wanted to have a show there.”
One of Nelson’s first solo shows was at the Bentley Gallery on Marshall Way. He showed his work there from 2002 to 2006. He was represented by Joanne Rapp Gallery, also on Marshall Way, from 1999-2000. Nelson said the sculpture is a reminder of Marshall Way’s history.
One-Eyed Jack was fabricated at R.J. Ruff & Co. in Phoenix. While it will be installed on Marshall Way this month, the sculpture’s dedicatory celebration will be on Thursday, Oct. 25, from 6–7 p.m. at Blue Clover Distillery, which is located on the same corner as the sculpture at 7042 E. Indian School Road, Scottsdale.
This celebration event will include complimentary green chili chicken nachos, while a special vodka cocktail called “One-Eyed Jack” will be available for $5. Additional food and drinks will also be available for purchase. Entertainment will include a performance by the acoustic band Notes of Neptune and a poetry reading by Alberto Ríos, a regents’ professor at ASU who became Arizona’s first poet laureate in 2013.
The celebration also serves as an opening reception for Scottsdale Public Art’s new Local Light initiative, which is designed to expand the atmosphere of Canal Convergence beyond the banks of the Arizona Canal. More details on Local Light will be coming soon at ScottsdalePublicArt.org.
Prior to the dedicatory celebration, Nelson will be available for a meet and greet from 5–6 p.m. the same day as the celebration at Gebert Contemporary, 7160 Main St., Scottsdale.