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Belleveau finishes 18-foot giraffe sculpture

Sculptor Albert Belleveau holds a model of a giraffe that he used to help create a 18-foot-tall giraffe made of chain, completing the sculpture 3½ years after it was commissioned by a St. Peter, Minn., farmer. Pioneer Photo/ Monte Draper

Art is like fine wine -- the longer you wait, the better the product.

Sculptor Albert Belleveau has completed a 3½-year commission piece that was about to be delivered Tuesday afternoon. A farmer in the St. Peter, Minn., area had seen his "Blue Chain Jane" sculpture on display at the Minnesota Historical Center and commissioned a life-size giraffe sculpture.

"I'm pleased he's a very patient man," Belleveau said. "Sometimes the impossible takes a little longer."

Belleveau first purchased an 18-inch-tall giraffe model from the online auction site eBay. The giraffe's scale turned out to be 1 inch to 1 foot, amounting to the size of a very, very large male, according to Belleveau, although it is not a gender-specific piece.

He purchased six barrels of chain for the giraffe, but the finished sculpture required twice as much. The finished product ended up being 18½ feet tall, weighing in around 3,000 pounds and requiring more than 4,000 feet of chain.

He even created a pattern to the chain, adding another dimension as he soaked the chain in salt water to achieve the rusted look. Once finished, he sandblasted a pattern and lacquered those sections.

With a grin, Belleveau proudly showed "a cool part" of the sculpture -- a hidden trap door in its belly giving a clear view of the giraffe's heart, a large amethyst rock. Peering through its open mouth, one can see the giraffe's brain, a piece of granite.

So if you're ever in rural St. Peter and notice some shaggy sheet metal elephants, Belleveau's giraffe will finally be in their company.