For Joe Malesky of Springfield, Missouri, sculpting is not a one person job. Much of his inspiration, and often names, for sculptures comes from his wife, Terry. "The Big One That Got Away" is no different.
Residing outside of Godfathers at the Southwest corner of 1st and Main Streets, this sculpture depicting a deer mid-jump, came to life in 2021.
Malesky has made a lifetime of collecting, saying he probably has 10,000 pounds of steel on his property waiting to transform into something new.
His love for old tools and rust has allowed him to create pieces comprised of things people can recognize, he said. Wrenches and gears, drill bits and old fence posts make up the intricate details of the deer.
In his recent retirement, Malesky decided to take up bow hunting. Finally getting his first deer last year, the artist often came home with many stories of "big ones getting away."
This sparked the inspiration for the piece and the name, which his wife aptly thought of.
Malesky never had any formal training in art, but always had an interest in creating. As a kid, he remembers making his own toys or fixing up old ones into something entirely new.
He worked as a welder and steel fabricator and eventually used these skills on the side, creatively in sculpture work.
"I never called myself an artist," Malesky said. "I was just a guy who made things. Never before did I realize the true significance of my work until I won best of show during my very first art show."
Since then, Malesky has had art in public shows in Nebraska, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, and more.
The artist also has permanent art pieces across the Midwest, including "Be Kind," a sculpture depicting a hand holding colorful balloons, in Dubuque, Iowa.
"My wife comes up with many ideas and some of them just catch in my head," Malesky said. "People always tell me I need to add color to my pieces. I say 'rust is a color,' but Terry paints the sculptures sometimes.
Once, he remembers, his wife brought home a broken sea shell. "She always sees the beauty in the broken," he added.
Inspired, the pair constructed a seven foot tall model of the shell out of concrete.
Since retirement, Malesky has shifted into sculpting full-time. Terry, he said, plans entries into art shows. Right now, the pair have 17 pieces out in 12 shows.
To Malesky, the best part of participating in art shows is the opportunity to travel with his wife and meet new people across the country.