To be more precise, this is a metal sculpture of Sasquatch created by local artist Betty Ballew. She made it out of scrap metal pieces welded together. Ballew said it took six months to create her representation of the legendary half-man, half-ape creature that supposedly lives in the woods around North America.
Marion is, of course, Bigfoot’s adopted home, complete with a festival in his/her honor.
For years, Ballew has created variety of artwork in different forms. She grew up on the land in Nebo which has been in her family since the 18th century. Ballew has always had an interest in art and her grandmother was an oil painter. She graduated from McDowell High in 1987 and went to work for NBC news in Raleigh. She also ran an advertising agency in Florida.
Ballew later decided to leave the corporate world and pursue her artistic passions. Her father Robert Ballew became ill and needed help running the family farm. He was a welding teacher at McDowell High School and his daughter learned from him how to make metal sculptures. A woman of many talents, she’s also illustrated comic books.
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Ten years ago, The McDowell News published a feature story about a horse sculpture she created. That life-sized horse is still located on her property along with other metal sculptures she has created.
“It was the first piece I ever did and I fell in love with working with scrap materials,” she said to The McDowell News recently. “When you have a family farm, a lot of stuff collects.”
On her property in Nebo, you can see a sculpture she titled “It Is What It Is.” This work is a metal sphere made out of numerous rings and it can rotate.
Ballew’ metal Bigfoot statue is the latest of her artworks. She got interested in the Bigfoot phenomenon during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ballew said she heard about Bigfoot 911, the local group that investigates the weird phenomenon, and of course, the WNC Bigfoot Festival in downtown Marion which has been a huge success.
Ballew’s best friend got her interested in the Bigfoot phenomenon at the beginning of the COVID pandemic and took her along on some expeditions.
“That was when I knew I was hooked,” said Ballew. “He told me about Bigfoot 911, but my friend was most instrumental in teaching me more.”
She started reading Bigfoot lore and became familiar with the many reports of sightings of the alleged creature, both in the Pacific Northwest and closer to home here in the mountains and foothills of North Carolina.
“It was interesting about the science of Bigfoot,” she said.
She added doing the research made her more intrigued in the phenomenon. “If you look at nature, there are new discoveries every day,” she said to The McDowell News. “Why couldn’t there be a Bigfoot? Whether I believe it or not, I am not sure. But it is interesting.”
Ballew started working on her idea of what a Bigfoot should look like. The pose is naturally inspired by the famous footage taken in 1967 by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin alongside Bluff Creek in northern California. The image of what is purported to be a female Sasquatch from that short motion picture has become iconic. It has become one of the most analyzed and debated home movies of all time.
Like her other sculptures, it is made entirely of scrap metal. She received donations of scrap from various businesses around Marion and it is also made out of pieces she had on the family farm.
“Materials have a memory or an energy attached to it,” she said to The McDowell News. “If you research Bigfoot, he’s sort of down as the keeper of the woods. He doesn’t like it when you throw out trash or whatever.”
The sculpture is mostly crafted out of steel parts. The eyes are made from old doorknobs. It is welded to a steel base and has a coating of Penetrol so it can stand outside and be exposed to the weather.
Now that her Bigfoot sculpture is completed, Ballew is looking to either sell it or see if a local government would be interested in acquiring it.
“He is house broken, so living indoors would be ok too!” she posted recently on Facebook.
She said it make a great conversation piece or perfect for a Sasquatch museum, restaurant, bar or wherever.
Most of all, Ballew wants for this artwork to stay in McDowell County. She would love to see it owned by the city of Marion or have it as a centerpiece at the Larry D. Miller Business Complex.
Her next artwork will be a metal statue of a heron that she is making for the Lake James Environmental Association. It will be unveiled at a special event on Saturday, Oct. 8, she said.
For more information, about Betty Ballew and her art, visit http://badbettydesigns.com/ You can also find her on Instagram at bad_betty_designs.