Positioned on the edge of a private lawn at the end of West 4th Street in Davenport, a recent art installment is doing its job — turning heads and sparking discussion among curious passersby.
The towering steel sculpture, which resembles a human-like insect, stands mid-stride with four extended appendages, bulging eyes and a horned crown under a canopy of silver maple trees. But the 500-pounder isn't going anywhere.
Davenport artist Tom Chouteau, known for his kaleidoscope creations, purchased the rust-colored piece this summer for $1,500, and mounted it atop his yard midway through the “S” curve between 4th Street and Telegraph Road.
“People stop here all the time,” he said. “They love my insect man.”
Steve Murrens of Davenport, for example, inquired about the fixture, labeling it an "ant man" or a "cockroach man." One of his coworkers, Murrens wrote in an email, thinks it's a "praying mantis man."
"He looks ... like he has a purpose," Murrens said. "I can't be the only one who enjoys the oddness of it, just existing."
Titled “Metamorphosis,” the eight-foot-tall creation, welded together with pieces of scrap metal, formerly decorated the Mississippi Riverwalk in Dubuque, where Chouteau first spotted it.
“I drove by it probably 20 times the first day it was there,” he said. “It has a certain amount of aliveness to it — the kind of aliveness I really like.”
In a statement about his work, Waterloo-based artist Jacob McGinn said, “The Metamorphosis,” a novella written by Franz Kafka, inspired the job:
“This story involves the sorrows of a man that transforms into a monstrous bug who lives with his family and is eventually killed," McGinn wrote. "This story influenced me to create a piece with insect body parts and human-like features.”
Chouteau’s interpretation isn’t as tragic.
The monument, in his mind, reflects a man on a mission, "preparing for winter, retirement, or whatever happens in this election."
The 60-year-old works 12 hours a day, six days a week, seven months of the year. He crews for Twilight, a riverboat company that makes two-day overnight cruises from LeClaire to Dubuque and back down river. During the off-season, he focuses on his craft.
This past spring, Chouteau moved into his childhood home on Thode Court, the place his folks purchased for their family of 10 in 1955.
"I like to keep striving and moving on," he said, referring to the figure as an "anchor" that will keep him busy at his old, but new, digs. "I'm making this place mine."
It serves a public purpose, too, he noted.
“Before we had the guardrail, we had hundreds of cars come into our yard,” he said. “He’s supposed to help people make the corner and slow down a little bit.”
At the end of 4th Street, veer left onto Thode Court to catch an up-close glimpse of the structure for yourself.
It won't bite.