Man builds giant guitar for public display
GILLETTE — Laid out across the large floor space inside of the Area 59 workshop — and taking up a lot of it — was about 22 feet of giant guitar.
Designed and mapped out in paper, its blueprint stretches across the middle of the work space floor, right beside a black steel plate cut into the body of a warlock-styled electric guitar. The guitar’s jagged edges shoot out of each of its corners, similar to what one might expect Metallica to riff on, but exponentially larger.
In white markings on the black metal reads “Wilson,” as if anybody else could have conjured up a potential community art installment like that.
It may just be in its early stages now, but when all is said and done, Wilson Restrepo envisions the giant guitar statue he is building to be a mainstay in Gillette. He and his son, Pedro Piedrahita, began building the mammoth electric axe earlier this summer and plan to submit it for consideration in next summer’s Avenue’s of Art selections, chosen by the Mayor’s Art Council.
“Hopefully if it can be displayed somewhere in town, people can see it and it can inspire them to create more things themselves,” Piedrahita said.
For a project that size and scope, they turned to Area 59’s workshop and makerspace, which they said is easily worth the monthly membership for them.
While the guitar’s master plan has been drawn up and outlined, constructing the steel pieces and finishing the finer details will still take plenty of time.
Restrepo said he eventually would like to see the statue displayed on someone’s lawn, in a position where the whole city can see and be inspired by the instrument that serves as his personal muse.
“He wants it to stand out from what normal people would do,” Pedro said of his father’s ambitious statue design. “He wants it to be giant, to be different. He likes to be different.”
Walking inside of the back room in Restrepo’s second floor Gillette apartment is like walking inside of his mind. The space on the walls not lined with posters of bands such as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd are covered by dozens of license plates from virtually every state, like the best version of a college dorm room.
An entire wall is dedicated to Black Sabbath, his favorite band, and Ozzy Osbourne posters and memorabilia.
“This is the place where he sits down and the inspiration comes,” said Piedrahita.
Dressed in a Black Sabbath shirt and camouflage shorts, Restrepo flips through his endless wall of records and picks out “Led Zeppelin IV.” Carefully, he removes it from its case, flips to the A side and gently sprays a cleaner on the vinyl, as a final layer of precaution. He sets it onto the record player sitting atop a Jack Daniels barrel and slowly drops the needle.
After a brief scratch and the soft sound of static, the iconic vocals come in and the walls start shaking.
With the speakers blaring, the music can be heard down the hall and outside of his apartment building. But apparently, the neighbors don’t mind too much. In fact, they may have come to like it.
“They complain when there’s no noise,” said his nephew, Sebastian Toro.
With about 3,000 albums collected over the course of several decades, his entire collection is “in order, or I find nothing,” Restrepo said.
Growing up in Colombia and coming of age when many of the now classic rock acts were just considered rock, Restrepo has always had an affinity for music. Although he does not know how to play guitar, he sure knows how to hear it.
While listening to music in that room, he has come up with many ideas over the years that he has taken from his mind into the physical world. In that room alone sits a guitar-shaped wooden table he designed and crafted himself. The room is lit by an overhead light wrapped in a wooden light fixture shaped like an acoustic guitar.
It was even in that room that he dreamed up and started building a giant COVID-19 effigy, in the same vein as the annual Santa Fe, New Mexico, celebration of Zozobra, and had its chicken-wire limbs spread throughout his whole apartment its construction.
That effigy was eventually burned this past winter as a good riddance to the coronavirus after the COVID-19 vaccine became widely available.
That project stood 23 feet tall. Although the giant guitar statue is expected to be a foot short of that, he expects it will be an even more difficult project.
From nothing to something
The plan for the guitar statue has gone from Restrepo’s mind to the blueprint, with pieces of the body already cut out of metal. But there is still a long ways to go.
From design to execution, there’s nothing simple about this project.
“Salvaje guitarra,” Wilson said, exclaiming the “wild guitar” style he is building.
With the design in place, Restrepo said he will have to put the project on hold for the next few months while he goes to Cheyenne to work on a pipeline.
In a perfect world, without outside distractions and the responsibility of maintaining his job working on pipelines, he said it would still take about one entire month of work to finish the statue.
The more work he and Pedro do, the more difficult it becomes. Each addition adds to its weight, making it harder to maneuver. Then there are all of the fine details.
Especially all of the fine details.
Although the guitar will not be playable, he wants to have every dial shaped and pickup polished to the point that it looks like the real deal.
“Too many details,” Wilson said with a grin.
To do it right takes meticulous precision. So unlike the brash noise and repetitive power chords of quintessential heavy metal, he will have to give the design a nuanced touch, more akin to a classical arrangement, or something that would sound less ideal being turned up to 11 and blasting from his sound system.
Less Ozzy, more Chopin.
The giant guitar is giant for a reason. When people see something that stands out as much as he hopes his statue will — regardless of what music someone may like — he wants them to relate to the giant guitar and everything it represents to him.
But by the time the city gets a chance to see it, he will likely be on to the next project to go from his mind to the workshop.
“For him, music is a huge thing,” Piedrahita said. “That’s why he wants it this big, to represent what music means to him.”