Frank Strunk creates art from found objects and steel. He donated the famous thong-clad gecko (seen at O’Maddy’s) for GeckoFest but also creates larger-than-life art, such as this eagle, for clients.
When you walk into Frank Strunk III’s studio, it’s hard to know where to look first. The pachinko machine resting against a work table? The pinball machine in the corner with what you would swear was something that should be called a “transducer” mounted on the glass? The toddler-sized eyeless plastic doll attached to a rusted vintage tricycle with twisted rebar?
Before you get too carried away, though, look up.
“Yeah, that got me the other day,” Strunk’s fellow artist, Owen Pach, tells me as he checks my head for blood. No blood, just a little lump and little more embarrassment.
“That” is a massive steel eagle posed in mid-flight, her talons stretched out as though about to grab a small woodland creature. As I tried to duck under her to get to the other side of the studio, she got me instead.
The problem is, you really don’t know where to look in his studio. In every corner there’s something to see. Strunk’s a “found object” artist, but he also works in steel, so his studio is a delightful mish-mash of discarded toys and bits of steel in a cornupcopia of shapes.
Strunk created the eagle for a Tampa bank. Until they accept delivery, she’s the self-appointed overseer of the studio, her eyes fixed unblinkingly on the horror movies playing on a loop on one side of the studio.
“People say I come off as a rugged, menacing guy, but man, I love a good scare,” Strunk says. Today’s cinematic background images are from the original “Friday the 13th” movie. Strunk prefers the classics and says he doesn’t like to watch movies like “Saw.”
“I grew up watching scary movies. It’s a nice kind of soundtrack,” he says as screams echo through the woods on screen.
Strunk grew up along the eastern seaboard and moved south to St. Petersburg in 1995. His studio is in a bay abutting the Blueberry Patch and he lives not far from his work. The move, he says, freed him to change his life.
Up north, he worked construction and describes himself as a “lovable loser.”
“If people needed to move, I had the truck. If something broke, they called me to fix it,” he says. When he moved down here, though, everything changed. He started working with metal, selling his first piece in 1998.
Today, he makes a living making art, from the majestic eagle protecting the studio to the whimsical thong-clad gecko auctioned off at the Lizard of Oz Gecko Ball last week. He tells me “the money thing is still kind of a mystery” but, from a metal-worked wine rack to his well-known wearable art and larger-than-life dollar bills, the money comes in, supporting him, his studio, and his classic horror film habit. He credits the move with his success.
“[Up there] I wasn’t uncomfortable enough in my skin to [make art],” he tells me. “When I got down here, I could try new things.
“I think the Universe reinvented me. It just gave me the opportunity to be happier.”