Earle Kluttz Thompson's cow
Earle Thompson left Raleigh last week with an ailing cow in the bed of her truck.
She wasn't headed for a large animal vet, however. She was on her way to Salisbury to an auto body shop.
To get a bow tie attached.
Yes, I know, you're confused.
The painted fiberglass cow, known as "Alexander Moolian," is part of the CowParade, a major public art project that has come recently to the Triangle. Earle and her partner in art, Raines Thompson (who also happens to be Earle's sister-in-law), have painted four cows for CowParade North Carolina 2012, which features 81 painted and decorated bovines.
Earle loves the project, which brings art to the public, she says, and shows people what local and regional artists can do.
Through donations from corporate sponsors, the eight-feet-long cows are now on display through Dec. 7 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus, the American Tobacco campus and Golden Belt in Durham and North Hills and Fayetville Street in downtown Raleigh. A few will be as far away as Fayetteville and Wilmington.
The CowParade will benefit the North Carolina Children's Hospital, and it's been estimated that the exhibit will attract more than 500,000 visitors to the Triangle this fall. The cows will be sold through live and online auction in February.
But back to Alexander Moolian.
Designed by the famous men's clothing designer, the cow is Alexander Julian's bovine doppelganger, snappily attired in a Carolina blue argyle patterned vest, striped shirt and natty bow tie. Julian is Chapel Hill born and bred, going to UNC and opening a downtown clothing shop in Chapel Hill when he was 19. He went on to find fame and fortune in the fashion world, but in Chapel Hill he might be most revered for designing the uniforms for the Tarheel basketball team, at Dean Smith's request. (He also supplies current coach Roy Williams with ties - sartorial choices much discussed by Tarheel fans, including Salisbury native Benn Wineka, who started the Roy Williams Tie Tracker, part of The Rafters blog.)
Raines and Earle met with the designer at his sister's home in Chapel Hill. He provided them with an argyle pattern, as well as a picture of the wing tip shoes he wanted the cow to be wearing ("beef tips," Earle says). He also specified cufflinks featuring the Old Well, a Chapel Hill landmark. He provided the artists an actual fabric bow tie to model the cow's on. (He's asked for it back, Earle says, because he wants to wear it to the gala in February).
The fiberglass bow tie was a real challenge to make, Earle says, especially for two artists who are used to working in two dimensions. They got some much-appreciated help from Earle's father, George Kluttz.
"He gave me and Raines the confidence that we could execute it.
"Dad has always given me confidence."
The bow tie turned out great.
So great, in fact, that somebody wanted it for a souvenir enough to rudely separate it from the cow's neck within 24 hours of it being placed in front of the UNC's Morehead Planetarium. The bow tie was pretty secure, Earle says, so she suspects that someone kicked it pretty hard to get it to break off. The vandals were given a week to return it, no questions asked, but no one came forward, Earle said.
Since the original bow tie has not re-emerged, Earle had to build a new one with her father. And this time, she's making sure that it stays attached. She drove the cow to Salisbury last week so that she could drop it off at Sudden Impact Auto Body and Paint Shop and have them secure the fiberglass piece so it would take an act of God to remove it. (Earle has fond memories of Sudden Impact, the body shop she and her father used to help them restore an old MG when she was a teenager in Salisbury.)
Rob Roberson did the honors, and the natty cow is now waiting to be picked up and have its bow tie painted.
Alexander Moolian is actually the fourth cow Earle and Raines have done for the CowParade.
The first one they did - which was also the very first cow done for the CowParade - was the UNC Children's Hospital cow. It's painted light blue and decorated with handprints of young patients.
Earle and Raines helped the children apply their handprints. "It was a really cool experience," said Earle, who with Raines owns Kluttz Thompson Designs in Raleigh, doing murals and faux finishing. (The two have worked on the Salisbury mural and the ghost sign project.)
The second cow they created was called Ramooses, based on the Carolina mascot.
A cow transformed into a ram is an interesting concept, to say the least. For that one, they had to cut off the cow's horns and fabricate a set of fiberglass ram's horns. Her father traveled to Raleigh to help with that, Earle said.
The third cow is called "North Cowalina," done to look like a vintage postcard with images of the state.
On Thursday, Alexander Moolian's fiberglass surgery was finished, and he waited patiently for his epoxy to harden at Sudden Impact. Soon he will be corralled and herded back to Chapel Hill, where one hopes he may flaunt his dapper bovine awesomeness without further drama and trauma.
For more information about CowParade North Carolina 2012, go to cowparadenc.com
For the website of Earle Kluttz Thompson and Raines Thompson, Kluttz Thompson designs, go to mekdesigns.com.