Often, when I decide to write a story or plant a garden and turn inspiration into artifact, I think about Dominic Gospodor. He’s not my muse exactly. And he’s not related to me. In fact, I’ve never met him. An eccentric millionaire devoted to creating sculptures in honor of the oppressed or forgotten, Gospodor is maybe best known for Gospodor’s Monument, his field of strange art along I-5. He built it despite criticism for his art form, sure to be an eyesore, and for creating a potential traffic hazard. From the beginning, people haven’t been able to help themselves when they drive by. They slow down. They veer. They take pictures, sometimes while still driving.
The place lights up at night. It’s fantastically bizarre.
The first time I drove by it, which was at night, I almost crashed my car trying to figure out what the hell was going on in that space. Here’s a picture:
I’m not sure I’d want one of Gospodor’s pieces in my own field. But for me, his sculptures serve as a reminder of how mysterious and passionate an engine the journey from inspiration to creation is. He spent close to a million dollars to bring to life three 20-foot gold-painted wooden sculptures atop copper-colored steel towers (the highest one is 100-feet). The sculptures pay homage to Native Americans, Mother Teresa and victims of the Holocaust. There’s also what Gospodor claimed to be the world’s largest weather vane with its giant Alaskan flag paying tribute to William H. Seward, the Secretary of State who bought Alaska from Russia in 1867. Gospodor had big plans for more creations to honor victims of drunk driving and slavery, as well as smaller monuments for Susan B. Anthony and Jonas Salk, but he died before those could be realized.
I’m a big fan of any Roadside America attraction, but Gospodor’s field, one I drive by a few times a year, has a special place in my heart. When he died in 2010 at 86, he gave what money he had left to the homeless and the poor, so the question of stewardship of his unusual monument has been up in the air until recently. A few weeks ago, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe agreed to oversee the land and work to preserve it as a cultural and historical site.
I’ll never get the chance to meet Gospodor, but I’m grateful his art will stay alive in the world, odd as it is. We should all be so lucky to create outside the din of mainstream expectations.
So thanks, Gospodor, wherever you are.