Mr. Stringy as Cadel Evans, Sept. 2011 – present
|Artist||Multiple anonymous artists|
|Medium||Wood and paint|
|Dimensions||1.67 m (5.5 ft); 0.40 m diameter (1.3 ft)|
|Location||Tambo Crossing, East Gippsland|
Mr. Stringy, also known as The Wooden Man or just The Man, is a folk art project and tourist attraction on the Great Alpine Road in East Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. Mr. Stringy is a sculpture in a human form, originally carved from a stringybark stump, which is regularly repainted into different topical characters by anonymous community members.
Mr. Stringy is located at Dead Horse Flat on a remote and isolated section of the Great Alpine Road alongside the Tambo River in East Gippsland, at an elevation of 203 m (666 ft). The nearest habitation is the small farming community of Tambo Crossing, some 8 km (5.0 mi) south of the sculpture, with the nearest population centres being the small towns of Ensay 12 km (7.5 mi) north, and Bruthen 39 km (24 mi) south.
Mr. Stringy is carved into a human form from a single piece of timber log, and consists of an over-large head and torso without legs, somewhat in the nature of the moai of Easter Island. Originally the wood used was probably stringybark, from which its name was derived, and was most likely to have been an actual tree stump in this location. However it is now a transplanted log and is thought to be a more solid and durable type of eucalyptus, such as the yellow box or grey box,[disambiguation needed] rather than stringybark.
Mr. Stringy stands 1.67 m (5 ft 6 in) tall above ground, with approximately a further 0.5 m (1 ft 8 in) below ground. It has a diameter of 0.40 m (1 ft 4 in) and a circumference of 1.325 m (4 ft 4.2 in). The carved head, neck, and shoulders take up half of the height above ground, with the remainder being the undifferentiated torso. The face area has been flattened from the natural curve of the log, and has carved eye sockets and the remains of a nose, which has possibly been lost at some time by weathering or through vandalism.
The Mr. Stringy sculpture dates back to the 1920s when bullock teams were the main traffic along the Great Alpine Road (formerly the Omeo Highway), originally being carved in location from a stringybark tree. The original sculptor was thought to be either a man known as 'Jimmy the liar' from the East Gippsland locality of Murrindal, north of Buchan, or a W. H. Henham; either way, the sculptor was possibly a member of a bridge building gang working along the road at the time.
Mr. Stringy (the original name of the sculpture was Mr. Smokey) was carved by William (Bill) Harold Henham of Murrindal who was building bridges in the area at the time. Bill Henham was asked by the Country Roads Board to replace the original sculpture after its head had been cut off with a chainsaw. He made two new sculptures. The first was erected on the site of the current sculpture and had a large metal spike down the centre; the second was used as his mailbox at his Bairnsdale home and is now owned by his eldest grandson, Graham Wigg of Bairnsdale.
The original Mr. Stringy was stolen at least once after the advent of the chainsaw, and maybe more than once, following which it was replaced with a new version. The current version has a large steel spike up its centre in order to try to prevent further theft, and is thought to be a more solid type of box eucalypt making it harder to damage and heavier to move.
It is not certain when the community first began painting Mr. Stringy into the various designs currently observed, although it may have originally been done to preserve the timber, with most of the early painting being done in basic black and white.
Mr. Stringy is regularly anonymously repainted as different characters, usually by members of the local community. The painting and maintenance of Mr. Stringy is not funded nor coordinated by any government or private organisation or individual, and as such he serves as a type of modern folk art or community art project for the Tambo Valley and Omeo District. Despite not being officially recognised, appropriate redecoration of Mr. Stringy is condoned and encouraged by both the community and local authorities.
The characters Mr. Stringy is painted as fall into various categories. The characters are often of a topical nature, such as a player from the Omeo & District Football League premiership football or netball team for that year, a cyclist complete with a bicycle when the Great Victorian Bike Ride travelled along the Great Alpine Road, and Cadel Evans following his win in the 2011 Tour de France. The sculpture is also painted as generic characters, for example a blushing bride, or a skier around the start of the ski season. Alternatively it may be painted as a figure from popular culture, such as Homer Simpson or Wonder Woman.
Mr. Stringy is sometimes just given a mild makeover, such as by modifying an existing painted character by adding a piece of clothing or simple decoration like balloons, ribbons, or streamers. This is often to celebrate an occasion such as Christmas or a sporting victory. At other times it is poorly painted or mildly vandalised, for example by having a tin of black paint poured over it; this may quite quickly prompt community members to do a proper repaint into a new character.
The unlikely existence of Mr. Stringy in a remote roadside location, and the regularly changing characters, make it a popular figure with current and former locals of the district, and a tourist attraction for visitors to the area.
Thefts and vandalism
Due to its remote location and prominence, the sculpture is a relatively easy target for vandalism, although its popularity makes genuine vandalism rare. As noted above, the original Mr. Stringy was stolen at least once, and the current version has been modified in order to try to prevent further theft or damage.
Despite the increased security measures, Mr. Stringy was stolen again in October 2010, having been winched out of the ground by unknown thieves. The Victoria Police officer based in Omeo harshly described the theft of this "icon of the area" as "the work of some idiot", and stated that it was "a bloody disgrace". Mr. Stringy was later found dumped nearby, down an embankment on the Tambo River, and was unofficially retrieved and replaced in position by workers from a local branch of the Department of Sustainability and Environment.
- Gardner, P. D. (1997). Names of the Great Alpine Road between Bairnsdale and Omeo. Ensay, Victoria: Ngarak Press. pp. 21–23. ISBN 1-875254-22-6.
- "Omeo - Places to See". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 18 November 2008. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
- "Outrage! Mr Stringy has been stolen!". ski.com.au. Leisurenet Aust. Pty Ltd. 1 November 2010. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
- "Police News". The Omeoshire Lions Newssheet. 27 October 2010.
Mr STRINGY has been stolen. Tom Johnston reported to police on Sunday night that he noticed that Mr STRINGY had been winched from his home on the side of the Great Alpine Road at Dead Horse Flat. I would like to think that this is the work of some idiot from out of the area and not a local. Mr STRINGY is an icon of the area and it is a bloody disgrace. Police urge anyone with any information that may lead to the return of Mr STRINGY or lead to the identity of those responsible to please come forward.
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