The landscape of Safari Niagara is dotted with an interesting collection of steel art, created on-site and currently on permanent loan by Niagara artist Rod Dowling. It is the largest art exhibit of its kind (by one artist) in the country and features an array of pieces from 50-foot high stainless steel sculptures to functional, painted steel benches.
Mr. Dowling, who worked on his craft almost daily until his retirement at age 80 in 2008, used recycled pieces of steel found at various locations in Niagara to create the one-of-a-kind sculptures.
Dowling was born on June 26th 1928 in Wynard Tasmania and was educated
in Melbourne Australia. His passion for art and the development of his
own talent to create emerged through a lifetime of travel and
Dowling was always an adventurer. Going to sea on a sailing schooner
and setting records as a long distance runner were part of his early
experiences. After completing his apprenticeship in building trades, he
began designing and building houses. Later on he traveled in various
countries throughout the world studying architecture from the standpoint
of design rather than strictly functional aspects.
From this enthusiasm his interest in more basic art forms evolved. With one successful career as an architect and
builder established, Mr. Dowling began to develop his artistic skills.
In the earlier years he produced sculptures in almost every medium. His
materials ranged from relics recovered from sunken ships to welded iron,
carved wood and cast concrete. He honed his gift of being able to
transform ordinary found objects to abstractions with a recognizable
essence. In the years leading to his retirement, Rod preferred to use
stainless steel as his medium.
Mr. Dowling is considered as one of the
rarest talents to emerge in years. The 10 years before his retirement
were spent in complete devotion to his craft. This lead to a
collaboration with the Tykolis family to infuse his sculptures with
their exotic collection of animals, birds
and reptiles at Safari Niagara. The park currently contains more than
200 of Mr. Dowling’s sculptures.
Even in retirement, Mr. Dowling continues
to have endless energy and insight when it comes to his work. In
addition to the Safari Niagara project, Rod’s work can be seen at
Cultural Centre, Buffalo, NY; Lewiston Arts Council Courtyard, Lewiston,
NY; Restaurant Garden, Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls, NY; Lock 7,
Thorold, ON; Thorold Library, Thorold, ON; Merritt Island, Welland ON;
Niagara Gallery Café, Fonthill, ON; Shaver Hospital Garden, St.
Catharines, ON; and on the front lawn of city hall in St. Catharines. His sculptures can also be found situated throughout southern Ontario and the eastern USA.