FALL CREEK — Vic Rouleau was in his element as he participated in the 2019 Falling Leaves Art Tour of the Wisconsin countryside earlier this month, displaying his unique works of art at a pumpkin patch with a backdrop of corn fields.
Where many people may see worn-down, rusty pieces of equipment that are well past their prime of usefulness, Rouleau sees something different: works of art just waiting to happen. He uses bits and pieces of old farm equipment and other metal he gets at salvage yards, some auctions, thrift sales, antique flea markets and wherever else he can find it to create what he terms “rustic lawn art.”
“It runs real heavy to farm equipment because that’s got all the unique-looking stuff on it,” Rouleau said.
He follows the philosophy of “waste nothing,” leaving as little as he possibly can unused.
He also likes to know the history and original purpose of the objects that he’s using. If he doesn’t know what it is himself, he can usually ask around and easily enough find someone who does.
What Rouleau gets out of seeing his pieces transform from junkyard finds into works of art is the “fun of it,” he said.
Rouleau got started in building his sculptures about 10 years ago. After watching a hunting video that featured a wire 3D hunting target, Rouleau decided to make his own life-sized deer out of barbed wire, he said. From there he expanded into creating birds, dogs and more.
After a while, making those creations became hard on his wrists, Rouleau said, so he made the transition to the metal pieces that he now welds together.
“And it exploded into this,” he said.
Rouleau uses a wide variety of parts and equipment that have had previous lives in his pieces, ranging from rotary hoe wheels, fan blades and gears to potato planters and truck axles. His pieces also range in size from turtles that lay fairly snug to the grass to flowers and other sculptures that can grow to be in excess of 10 feet tall.
While some of his larger pieces, such as a motorcycle that he has crafted, require a degree of planning, the majority of his works come from spur-of-the-moment decisions.
“I happen to be walking by a piece in my junkyard and think, ‘Oh, that’s cool. I’m making that today,’” Rouleau said. “I don’t really know what I’m building that day until it’s made.
“It’s whatever inspires me.”
Rouleau is looking forward to retiring from his day job and being able to work on his sculptures on his own time.
Many of Rouleau’s customers are tourists heading up north on vacation who see his work set out in his front lawn off of Highway 27. Rouleau said that his work can be found in at least 35 of the lower 48 states.
One of Rouleau’s pieces was part of this year’s Eau Claire Sculpture Tour; his piece called “Morning Splendor” is located outside B-Framed Galleries, 313 S. Barstow St. He plans to submit more entries next year. He considers himself lucky to have been accepted into the competitive tour, which selects only a fraction of submitted works to feature.
In addition to his permanent, self-service display on his own lawn, Rouleau displays his artwork at several different shows, such as the Falling Leaves Art Tour, throughout the year.
Rouleau said the art tours provide people an opportunity to get out and see what other artists are doing. In the case of the Falling Leaves Art Tour, there was the added bonus of getting to explore the Wisconsin countryside.
Rouleau brought 30 of his creations for display on the tour before sales started rolling in. Rouleau said he makes about 100 pieces each year.
Rouleau’s work can also be seen on his Facebook page, Vic’s Visions — Rustic Lawn Art. Rouleau can be contacted by phone at 715-595-3119.