One Tank Trip: Dinosaurs in Motion at Reading Public Museum


The way they move and interact makes it appear as though they have a bit of a personality.

"There are some creations that are always going, and yes, it can, they do make noise and, of course, when a metal beak is flapping, it makes a lot more sound than a normal dinosaur made," said John Graydon Smith, the Reading Public Museum's director and CEO.

At the same time, TVs are telling the artist's back story and sharing his sometimes, rather noisy, process. In the midst of all this, the creations show you who they are coming to life through movement.

Dinosaurs in Motion is made up of a dozen life-sized dinos that blend art, science and engineering, a hands-on Jurassic Park. The exhibit is set up like a sculptor's studio.

"As you go through the show, you see the creations get more and more dramatic and creative and sort of intense in how they are built," Smith explained.

The amazing creatures are the work of late artist and master metalsmith John Payne, a North Carolina native who was inspired by the countless hours spent with his own children, admiring dinosaurs at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

He used recycled sheet metal and hammered it into found art, going back over each piece to make the metal bone-like, and even though the result was breathtaking, he was once quoted as saying, "the dinos themselves were not enough. I had to bring them to life."

So he did, and he did it in a way that you are part of the process.

The kinetic sculptures are attached to cables connected to levers and pulleys. Some have a game controller, like a PS 2 remote. Payne was specific in his methods to build each one, making blueprints after years of research. He always started with the skull. The creations mimic the way real dinosaurs move, some on their own, some you control.

There are gentle reminders throughout that, although touching is encouraged, it's still art.

"If you just came in and sat and looked at them, it's a beautiful show," said Smith.

The last two pieces Payne ever created were the American crow and the whopping crane. He saw the connection between age-old dinos and modern day birds, and you'll notice an evolution in his later work. They all have some sort of ball and socket configurations, but the ones in the birds go all the way to the feet.

To Payne, movement was life.