10165244282?profile=RESIZE_710xGregory Dirr’s sculpture REcycled REef will be installed this month at the entrance to South Beach Pavilion. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

 

By Steve Plunkett

Gregory Dirr’s REcycled REef sculpture was a tangle of curved rebar coated with concrete and covered with an assortment of glued-on plastic in mid-February. Plans were to add a layer of mortar and paint it shades of red, green and blue. Recycled material makes up a large part of Dirr’s works, but he doesn’t want to be known as the recycled artist.
“I want you to fall in love with something first and then be tricked into liking something that makes you feel moral about something. … Because it’s too late. You already like it, and now you’re looking at it and you’re going, ‘Oh, wait a minute. There’s these little objects in it. Oh, this is something I could have possibly thrown away.’
“And then you’re — before you know it — you’re like, ah damn, I’m PC, I have to worry about plastics now.”
The completed piece, to be unveiled at Palmetto Park Road and State Road A1A in mid-March, is the latest addition to Boca Raton’s growing collection of public art.
Dirr supplemented plastic he picked up at the beach with bags of discards donated by cleanup firm 4Ocean and recycled items he bought from Resource Depot in West Palm Beach.
“Every time I go to the beach I usually clean up a little bit, but it’s just, I couldn’t get enough myself to do it,” he said.
First Dirr bent the rebar, also recycled, into position and then strapped the metal together and welded it in place. He wrapped the assembly with chicken wire to hold the concrete.
“We had to like let parts of it dry and set up first because of weight and counterbalance, so that probably took a total of three days. And then the plastic took the longest because it was just tedious and the fact that we had to like glue a little bit down and we had to wait for the tape you know to be removed and then we could do a little bit more, a little bit more,” he said.
“It was actually the fun part because you know we could just come out here and glue it. It was like doing a mosaic or collage or something so it took the longest but it was the most fun.”
Work on REcycled REef began in mid-January. Dirr took off a week in February to work nonstop on a public art installation in West Palm Beach. He was joined by more than a dozen volunteers to paint a series of storm drains along Clematis Street and North Flagler Drive.
The colorful artworks aim to raise awareness of the dangers of stormwater pollution.
“It’s beautiful, it turned out awesome,” Dirr said.
Dirr’s fiancée and business manager, Ashleigh Bremser, his parents and even the neighbors contributed to the Boca Raton project. The plastic ornaments include tape cassettes, keys, 3-D Star Wars things, electrical outlets, prize trophies and a small doll’s body — along with the ubiquitous bottle caps and water bottles. The final coat of mortar would cover much of all that.
“We’re going to lose a lot,” Dirr said. “I want it to look like that, though. I want it to kind of look like artifacts that are coming through or like fossils, you know. Like they’re there, but they’re not.”
When it’s finished, the sculpture will be roughly 7 feet high, wide and deep and weigh more than 2,500 pounds. Dirr has hired a company that specializes in moving artwork to get it from his home-studio west of Boca Raton to its display pad at the entrance to South Beach Pavilion.
A crew of four will temporarily remove a wooden privacy fence to load the piece with a crane onto their truck for the 11-mile trip. The $6,000 moving bill will eat up a good chunk of the $10,000 stipend the city awarded Dirr. Materials cost him more than $500, he said.
His concept for the piece was the top choice of Mayor Scott Singer and City Council members Yvette Drucker and Monica Mayotte, who picked him over four other artists in December. He was Deputy Mayor Andrea O’Rourke’s second choice. Boca Raton also is furnishing the concrete pad to support the sculpture.
“I think it’s incumbent on us to make sure that we have signage that educates the public because education is a big component of this project,” O’Rourke said at the time.
Dirr said his sculpture has to be visually pleasing before it can convey a deeper meaning.
“People are going to be like, what is that? And then they’ll get up to inspect it and be like, ‘ah, garbage thing. I got to not throw away garbage while I’m here,’” he said.
“With me art is less about the physical thing and more about the concept. I like the fact that it’s super simple, but it gets that point across.”
This is Dirr’s third piece of public art in the city. He painted a mural at Red Reef Park in 2018 and a tunnel at Spanish River Park in 2019. Murals are always financially better, he said.
“I could spend $200 on paint and then do something the size of this house and get paid like $15,000, right?” But he’s concerned that too much of his portfolio is in his murals, which appear both nationally and internationally.
Dirr, a graduate of the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, plans to continue seeking commissions from cities, preferring them to private clients, he said, because “you know exactly what it’s going to be. There’s no questions; there’s no changing of prices.”
Dirr hopes that viewers will respond to REcycled REef as a work of high art, even though it’s recycled material. “I want you to fall in love with the piece first and then go, ‘Hey, this is just made out of stuff.’ And then you like it even more because of that, you know.”

10165245655?profile=RESIZE_710xGregory Dirr created his sculpture from concrete and objects that came partly from beach cleanups. It will weigh more than 2,500 pounds and measure about 7 feet high. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

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