URBANA — As he walked through the farmers market at Lincoln Square Mall 20 years ago, some rusty sculptures made out of old farm equipment caught Richard Mohr’s eye.
He snapped up eight sculptures crafted by then-high school student Tony Bruno, now a local defense attorney. Over the next few years, he accumulated 20 such statues from different artists, and he fell in love with both their quirkiness and creepiness.
“They’re extremely funky, so they’re both fun and serious and a little bit spooky, too,” Mohr said. “So it’s a nice aesthetic combination of humor and spookiness.”
On Saturday, Mohr will move the sculptures from his backyard to the front of his house for the Urbana Amble Front Yard Garden-and-Art Tour, in which residents are invited to walk or drive by 40 different yards displaying art today and Saturday.
In Mohr’s view, the artwork is perfect for Independence Day.
“Each piece is self-contained,” he said. “Each piece gives a strong individual expression. Even though they’re farm implements, they each seem to be telling a story. … I think it definitely is very American, very in favor of individualism. It couldn’t be more perfect for Fourth of July.”
That he has a philosophical view on the sculptures is no surprise.
Mohr is a retired University of Illinois philosophy professor who focused on art philosophy toward the end of his career.
Over the last few decades, Mohr seems to have put much more thought into the artwork than Bruno, who told Mohr he’d be coming by on Saturday.
“He was fascinated that this stuff survived,” Mohr said. “This was from a high school shop class. … They were like $15 or $20, and they’re really substantial.
“They’ve been out in the elements for 20 years, and they look like they did when I got them.”