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Sculptor Wanda Odegard stands Monday morning with her super-sized bald eagle made of bronze and stainless steel. The welder has spent 10 years, summers only, working on the project welding one feather at a time. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Artist creates giant eagle

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

"Never rush a labor of love," said Wanda Odegard, who for the last 10 years has been creating a bronze and stainless steel bald eagle.

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The super-sized work of art boasts a 16-foot wingspan and an eight-foot long body with some wicked looking talons holding a fish made of stainless steel. Odegard named the sculpture "Spirit of Freedom."

Bemidji may know Wanda as the welder who created "Niimii" in 1988, the dancer that graces Bemidji's lakeshore. She also created the John Glas Fieldhouse "Mr Hockey" and the Lake Itasca State Park giant globe, a collaborative piece of worked completed in 1993.

Odegard worked on the eagle sculpture during the summer months for the first eight years at her home. During the last two years, all the pieces came together, and the project was moved to friend and sculpture Roger Loyson's shop, which was equipped with a over head hoist.

"Roger is a true friend, a perfectionist," she said. "I got to a point where I needed the use of heavy equipment and he was there for me".

More than 150 family members and friends gathered last weekend to witness the unveiling of the giant bird.

"It truly is one of a kind - each feather was individually welded together," said Odegard. "Many bronze pieces are cast at a foundry with dozens of people working to complete a sculpture.

"Bronze is so easy to work with, it's soft and easy to mold. Stainless steel is just the opposite," said Odegard.

Ten years is a long time, but one whole summer was spent designing and making the feathers. Not a simple task, but her experience in dress making came into play.

"The fabrication had to come together in a specific order," Odegard said. "Many hours were put into planning and design, but with every problem, common sense and an hour later the problem was solved."

According to Odegard, the inside support system made of steel was just as complicated, a geometric feat that allows the 2,000-pound sculpture to be safely lifted and transported.

With the sculpture complete she said she plans to sell it, but hopes it says in the area. Her next project? "Nothing this big. It's nice to have a open plate."

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