31 January 2023

'Mad Maximus' scrap iron sculpture to greet visitors entering Griffith

| Oliver Jacques
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Andrew Whitehead stands next to his Mad Maximus

Andrew Whitehead next to Mad Maximus. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Maverick Urana-based scrap metal artist Andrew Whitehead has installed a unique gladiator and chariot-type sculpture called ‘Mad Maximus’ outside Caesars Furniture Store.

The shiny, giant artwork, which took over 1000 hours across eight months to construct, will be visible to motorists entering Griffith as Irrigation Way turns into Banna Avenue.

Caesars’ owner Paul Pierotti, who commissioned the sculpture, hopes to have started a new Riverina art tourism trend.

“Our family business is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and we felt we’d like to give something back to the community,” he said.

“We’d love to see tourism get on board and we’d love to see an art trail of all Andrew’s work from Urana and Lockhart, right across, with Griffith on that route.

“It’s a long way out here from any major centre. If we can encourage people to start travelling around, it would be better for our community and economy.”

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Mad Maximus is the 22nd public sculpture from Mr Whitehead, whose work can be found all over rural NSW and Queensland.

“When I said we wanted a gladiator and a chariot, Andrew thought, ‘oh, not another horse’. But nobody has done it with an ape hanger chopper and a blown V8 … it’s a bit of a twist on the old and the new. We have our traditional Italian heritage and then forging our way in the bush of the Riverina, which has not been an easy ride,” Mr Pierotti said.

“Much of it is made from agricultural machinery, which is the heart of the Riverina.”

Andrew Whitehead riding Mad Maximus

The full Mad Maximus. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Mr Whitehead has used items such as two heads of an old 1930 V8 Ford, a windmill gearbox, a cast iron water meter cover (used to stop them freezing in the winter], chains from a toilet bowl, fired shotgun shells and Furphy water-cart wheels.

“At first, you look at it and say, ‘wow’. But then you look at the detail within the foot, the toes and the muscles – all the quirky little twists. You can feel he is moving through the wind. It’s a bit like my family’s history here in Griffith … no wonder he’s carrying a dagger!” Mr Pierotti said.

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The Urana artist is a former army soldier and diesel mechanic who only discovered his new talent after he turned 50.

“I had a divorce and the new wife said, ‘go to the shed and do something creative’,” Mr Whitehead explained.

“I built a cow, and the week I finished, there was an art show, and someone said, ‘take it to the show’. It won first prize. I beat real artists. I thought I was an imposter.

“I then built a spider to create the illusion I’m an established artist … it went to [Urana Shire Council] and said, ‘I’ll give you this spider if you put it up on the water tower’. They said, ‘OK, if you put it up there’. That went up, they put a plaque up [with my name] and then the work just flowed.

“I’ve had no interest from galleries and the arty farty crowd. They don’t consider this fine art. But the public loves it.”

Mr Pierotti said people are welcome to use the Caesars car park to come and check it out and take photos. Children are allowed to sit on the carriage seat, as long as they are careful.

More information on Andrew Whitehead’s sculptures can be found on his Facebook page.

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