Earthmover as art 

Over the winter, Brian McCutcheon fabricated a wheel loader. He’s not making the real thing — outfitted with a 600-horse-power engine and the ability to demolish Burger Kings or 1960s-era apartment complexes — but it’s the real size. The look of the loader will be more like his son’s Tonka toy rather than a Case or Caterpillar. And it’s now standing on its end at the Old Washington Street Bridge at White River State Park.

McCutcheon built this loader in his two-car garage studio behind his Broad Ripple home.

The idea to create the loader didn’t come from one definitive moment, but rather from a combination of events: his recent move to Indianapolis (which coincided with his photographing heavy construction equipment) and experiencing his son playing with some of the same toys he played with when he was a boy.

“Conceiving the loader came from this sort of thinking and from wanting to look at what I was doing in another format. I think in bodies of work — common ideas — and that what I want to see in an exhibition of my own work is not a series of related images — say, 12 large-scale photos of heavy equipment — but a group of things talking about an idea — sculpture, drawing, photography and painting — almost as a curator might assemble a thematic exhibition.”

But it’s no easy thing making a wheel loader, especially when you’re basically a one-man workshop; so McCutcheon made computer drawings and formulated a plan to construct this massive piece of equipment. From these drawings he used a computer-aided cutting machine to first cut the hubs and wheels out of glued-together 2-inch blue insulation boards. From these he made a rubber mold and finally a plaster mother mold. It was only then that he could cast the pieces individually in urethane plastic, polyester resin and fiberglass. Once he had sanded and worked the casts, they were painted with auto paint.

The frame of the loader is constructed from extruded 1-inch-square steel tubing that was bent, cut and then welded together. The exterior cladding is made of steel panels painted with yellow enamel paint. The windows in the cab of the loader are made of clear sheets of acrylic.   

The piece is now bolt-mounted to a cast-concrete pad on the bridge.  

From more information about Brian McCutcheon, visit


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