Monday, October 8, 2012

The World of John Eyn

The colorful, violent world of John Eyn inhabits a hidden corner of Pierce College in Woodland Hills, just south of Los Angeles.  An old trapper turned motel owner, he became a self-taught sculptor in order to attract paying guests to his business.   His art, however, soon consumed him and Eyn spent the last thirty years of his life creating these elaborate scenarios of the Wild, Wild West.

John Eyn was born in 1897.  "Old Trappers Lodge",  the name of his motel was opened in 1941 near the Burbank Airport.   He died in 1981, and although the motel was razed, the sculptures were moved to this tiny corner of Pierce College.  Enter the campus via El Rancho Drive.  After you pass the stables, look to the left,  The site can be spotted behind a chicken coop.  Not easy to find, but worth it! 

Old Trappers Lodge tells a tale of violence, mistrust and discrimination.  Men are bloodied with hatchets.  Women are assaulted; the ones who survive wrap pistols around their seductive thighs.  It is a tragic, short-lived, boozy world.  Welcome to the world of John Eyn--a world that ends with whimsical epitaphs.  Glamorous?  Hardly.  Nostalgic?  No way.  And yet it is a world, I can't get enough of.

Such creativity lures me in.  I seek out these folk art installations whenever I travel.  My fascination, I hope, is equal to the artists' passion.  I walk away, inspired, determined to spend my golden years inside a garage or in the back of a vacant lot painting, molding, welding a world of creatures from an imagination that will not stop until I take my last breath.

Sadly, when my travel buddy and I were there a few weeks ago, the sculptures were in bad need of repair.  They need new coats of paint and some of them need major replastering.  These larger than life people, molded from the historical Old West, are treasures worth preserving.  I hope restoration is forth-coming.

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