Two special Cincinnati dinosaurs, like no others in the world, have found homes. "Steg' has been settled in for a while in the library at Northern Kentucky University. Now, finally, "Triceracopter" is on display at the University of Cincinnati. The work of local sculptor Patricia Renick, the statues are in place as the result of enormous efforts by an army of her loyal friends and fans.

The monumental marvels are "Stegowagenvolkssaurus" and "Triceracopter: The Hope for the Obsolescence of War."

Famous in their day, they gradually faded from the stage. Like many species, they were threatened with extinction and, at one point, there were even plans to bury them.

"Stegowagenvolkssaurus" or "Steg' was born in 1974, the result of a unique mating of a fiberglass stegosaurus and a vintage Volkswagen Beetle. "Triceracopter" is the offspring of a triceratops and a Vietnam-era combat helicopter, which came together in 1977.

Only an exceptional artist could conceive such unlikely creatures, and Renick was exceptional.

She was one of Cincinnati's best known and best loved artists. Born in Lakeland, Fla., in 1932, she died in Cincinnati in 2007. Renick taught sculpture at the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning from 1960 to 2000.

TEACHER, MENTOR

Often called "Mother Art," she was a friend and mentor to many local artists and served on the executive committee of the International Sculpture Center, which named her the 2003 Outstanding Sculpture Educator.

Today, the 12-by-20-foot silver "Steg' stands proudly on the third floor of Northern Kentucky University's W. Frank Steely Library, under a large skylight that highlights the elegant curves of the sculpture.

Renick created the work for the 1974 Invitational Awards Exhibition at the Cincinnati Art Museum. It was the time of the first major oil embargo, and the fear of a world without oil was in the news. Renick was intrigued by the similar shapes of the car and the long-extinct creature, and fascinated by the idea that the automobile operates on fossil fuel from the age of the dinosaurs.

Renick's sculpture played upon the popular, but untrue, notion that oil comes from the decomposed bodies of dinosaurs, but her message was that the gasoline-powered automobile was destined for extinction.

The sculpture was also featured at Cincinnati's Contemporary Art Center and was exhibited in Chicago in the Sculpture for a New Era exhibition. That was "Stego's" undoing. Following that exhibition in the Dirksen Federal Building, the sculpture was left disassembled in the building lobby. Visitors to the building jumped on it and damaged it severely. Renick put the parts in the basement of her Clifton home and judged it to be beyond repair. She considered digging a hole and burying it, to befuddle future archaeologists.

But Renick was not done with dinosaurs. In 1977, she completed "Triceracopter," once again melding animal and machine. It was shown at the Contemporary Arts Center in 1978.

"Triceracopter: The Hope for the Obsolescence of War" combines the form of a triceratops dinosaur with an Army OH6A Cayuse combat helicopter flown in Vietnam. Renick restored it in fiberglass while sculpting the magnificent creature from the Cretaceous Age.

'WAR IS SEDUCTIVE'

Complete with 10-foot long rotor blades, the body of the sculpture measures eight feet wide by 11 feet high, and is 30 feet long, the same length as the original helicopter. The head of "Triceracopter" was designed to suggest the helmet and face of a Samurai warrior. It was always on view, without rotors and tail, in the artist's Brighton Place studio.

"War is seductive as well as threatening," Renick reportedly said. "It is seductive because it says, "¢I will make a hero out of you' "¢ but it really kills. I want people to see that ambiguity."

Renick created a companion sculpture, casting her own body in fiberglass while sitting in a chair and holding a small model helicopter. She gave herself a head of a triceratops, suggesting that even the artist faces obsolescence in the modern world. The artist's figure sits in front of the large sculpture and is titled "She Became What She Beheld."

Renick's art often had a sense of play. The dinosaur sculptures were originally inspired by model kits, but turning the idea into monumental art was a monumental task. For "Stego," the artist needed a real car body and a car dealer donated the VW body.

For "Triceracopter," the challenge was finding a real combat helicopter to build upon. It took three years for Renick to find and acquire the helicopter, which was donated by the U.S. Army, with some needed parts coming from the Army National Guard. Numerous companies provided materials and technical advice and assistance.

The works were among many left behind by the artist at her untimely death in 2007. She hoped they could be installed in libraries and, if homes could not be found, it was suggested they might be buried.

But Renick's friend and executor Laura Chapman, also an art educator, assembled an army of friends to find homes for both works.

Refusing to accept that "Steg' was beyond hope, the friends assembled a team of custom automobile specialists to restore the work beyond its original condition, giving it an elegant silver surface instead of its original gray body.

It took months of work and years of negotiations to find suitable homes for the magnificent monuments.

"Triceracopter" was finally installed this summer in UC's Langsam Library, following "Stego," who had been installed in NKU's library in 2007.

NEW MEANINGS

Over time, great art can acquire new meanings. "Stegowagenvolkssaurus" is a hybrid mix of an animal and a machine. Today, many automobiles are hybrids of gasoline and electricity, in response to the same concerns that inspired the artist in 1974.

The OH6A Cayuse combat helicopter in "Triceracopter" is still in use in the war in Afghanistan; a telling message about the persistence of war.

The two sculptures are installed in very different settings. "Steg' basks in the sun, almost smiling and appearing quite content to stay where it is. But "Triceracopter" is positioned at the end of a long, dark corridor, under a low ceiling just inches above the rotor blades. It glowers down the corridor and seems to be pawing the ground like an angry bull, ready to charge down the corridor and return to combat. It appears to be kept in control by its creator, sitting in her chair, calming the beast.

The installation of the two sculptures in libraries is particularly significant today, when the written word is being digitized into electronic books. If Renick were alive today, she would probably be creating a sculpture of a dinosaur with the body of a book.

"Stegowagenvolkssaurus," on loan from Laura Chapman, is on the fourth floor of the W. Frank Steely Library, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, Ky.

"Triceracopter: Hope for the Obsolescence of War" and "Self Portrait: She Became What She Beheld" were installed this summer and will be dedicated this fall. They are gifts from Ms. Chapman to the University of Cincinnati and are on the main floor of the Walter C. Langsam Library.

Videos of the installation of the sculpture can be viewed at http://magazine.uc.edu/favorites/web-only/Triceracopter.html

Owen Findsen, author and lecturer, was a reporter and art critic for 39 years at The Cincinnati Enquirer. He has taught design and art history at the University of Cincinnati