WHIMSICAL SCULPTURE BY MARK BLUMENSTEIN - Through May 3 at American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, weekdays 9 to 6. 1625 L Street NW.
Her head is fashioned from a gas pump, with the nozzle for a beak. The elegant crest is a bent pitchfork, and her rear plumage consists of three rusty scythe blades. Not at all your average weathervane, she perches atop her woodstump pedestal in the gallery, awaiting a visitor's push to send her flying in circles.
"Nosy Lady" is one of 48 whimsical scupltures currently on exhibit at AFSCME's downtown headquarters, by Mark Blumenstein, a West Virginia artist who fashions his "children" from discarded farm machinery and tools.
A veteran of the antiwar movement and the street theater of the '60s, Blumenstein then used the city - Philadelphia and the South Street group - as his medium. Increasing concern with ecology and a need to have more control over his environment "and get back to basics" led to relocating on a farm in West Virginia. It was there, in his 100-year-old log house, that Blumenstein found three old tractor seats and created chairs for the kitchen. This led to a commission to build six for a bar in Connecticut. Before long his pieces were taking on the dimensions of a royal throne. "Tongue Chair," one of five sculpture chairs in the show, is an unexpected and entertaining melange of tire rims, huge cogs, wheel spokes, bolts and bearings.
"I believe in recycling materials meant to be smelted down the Cadillacs and new blenders," he said. "I don't take pieces that can still be used in their present form."
And out of those old rusty things he had also made interesting wall sculptures and abstract forms. But his "pets" dominate this show: insects, birds, turtles, frogs and even some eerily realistic mock animal heads mounted on the wall. "As a nonviolent vegetarian I wanted to prove that you can have a trophy without killing anything," he explained.
Funny thing about Blumenstein's animals - they seem to be alive. They look at you from rediculous cross-eyes made from washers, screws and bolts. It's easy to imagine rusty songs emanating from bird beaks fo forging tongs, shovel blades and hedge shears.
The vividness of their characters is not news to the artist. "They are like my children," Blumenstein says. "But they form their personalities when they go to their adoptive parents." CAPTION: Illustration, ONE OF THE WHIMSICAL FARMYARD SCULPTURES OF MARK BLUMENSTEIN, AT AFSCME'S HEADQUARTERS ON 15TH STREET NW.