Recycled Roadrunner Statue - Atlas Obscura

At a scenic rest area outside of Las Cruces, a massive roadrunner perches on a boulder, gazing over the city below. The sculpture stands a whopping 20 feet tall and is composed of old shoes, cell phones, bike parts, and other recycled materials. It was designed by local artist Olin Calk in 1993. It first stood at the Las Cruces Foothills Landfill. The purpose was to draw attention to our consumption habits, the power of recycling, and how much we toss away into landfills. 

True to its purpose, the roadrunner is formed entirely out of discarded material. The sheet metal used to form the shape of the bird came from old tool sheds, roofing metals, and other secondhand sources. Olin remarked that the black-and-white palette of most appliances matches the colors of a roadrunner, giving a wide selection of materials to work with. The detail of the head is very interesting to look at. Old shoes give the appearance of feathers, while the eyes are formed from Volkswagen headlights and bicycle tires.

The sculpture became a big hit with the residents of Las Cruces. Citizens donated different trinkets for Calk to incorporate into the bird’s design during renovations. These donors then have fun trying to see where exactly their contribution ended up. Nowadays, the massive bird has been relocated to the rest area west of Las Cruces on I-10. While it is a somewhat less symbolic location, the new location makes it more visible to locals and travelers alike.

Olin has said his work is largely about perception. “From a hundred yards, you can’t really see what materials had been used to create the work. As you approach the work and get closer to it, things become clearer.” So it is with the problem of overconsumption—if you don’t get close to it, you have no idea how big the problem really is. As you examine the myriad items that compose the roadrunner, think about the ones that you use in your life. Seeing it represented on the roadrunner might give you pause before you throw it away.

Know Before You Go

The roadrunner is easily accessed off Interstate 10, and has plenty of parking. Use the Scenic Overlook exit.

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