What do you get when you mix an art collector, firearms, and the city of Chicago? While I’m sure there are many ways to unpleasantly answer that question, but in this case, the answer is Steel Sculptures.
The Cody Firearms Museum has an exhibition entitled Steel Sculptures: Engraving Individuality from Mass Production which looks at examples of firearms modified and embellished by Raymond Wielgus (1920-2010).
Wielgus studied sculpture at the School of Fine Arts at the University of Illinois. He was also a known Asian and African art collector and conservator at the Field Museum in Chicago.
In 1970, he retired and moved to Tucson, AZ. One day, Wielgus was out shooting his Colt Diamondback revolver and decided to find a way to improve it stylistically. Thus began a 34 year process of transforming firearms to sculpture. He fused his passion for ethnographic art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas with firearms embellishment.
He hand-carved the ivory grips and used an ancient engraving process known as damascening to inlay precious metals. This Colt Single Action Army and its itty bitty baby brother above are just two of the 36 pieces from Wielgus in the Cody Firearms Museum collection.
Click here to see more of the guns he embellished. However, the first guns he made are still located at the Art Institute of Chicago (click here to view). This collection has traveled to several art museums before finding a home in Cody. The style, while inspired by Wielgus’ art collection has also been called reminiscent of an art deco style.
For more information, visit centerofthewest.org