The Man Who Put Bigfoot on the Moon – Dan Chudzinski, M.F.A.
University of Findlay is known for its small campus community, hands-on learning opportunities for students, and strong science, health professions, education, and business programs. This series takes a different approach, highlighting the lives of University faculty and staff members, and showcasing their talents outside the classroom. In the fourth installment of our series, we talk with Dan Chudzinski, M.F.A. who will soon be known as the man who put Bigfoot on the moon. Dan serves as the curator for the University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum. Surrounded by art while at work, Dan goes home where he continues to be surrounded by works of art…many of them his own.
As an artist, Dan says he is typically working on at least a dozen projects at once, ranging from drawings and sketches to detailed and realistic sculptures. Having worked with primates at the Toledo Zoo, where he served as a zoo taxidermist, Dan says he often dreamed of creating a hyper-realistic interpretation of Sasquatch. Adding fuel to the fire was the experience he had while working with the Tlingit Clan’s master carvers in Alaska, “The elders shared stories of creatures similar to Bigfoot. It seemed that no matter where I traveled, stories of mysterious wild men in the forests were never far behind,” said Chudzinski.
What he didn’t know was that he would be given the chance to create something he’d only dreamt of. “When the curator of the Norman Rockwell Museum asked if I would be interested in loaning two of my existing sculptures to the Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration exhibition, I told them I had a different piece in mind. As soon as I mentioned “Bigfoot,” they interrupted with an emphatic “YES!” said Chudzinski.
He started with his plan to create a full-size figure that would stand 10 feet tall, but eight months into the project, the museum realized the scale was going to be too large. Throwing eight months out the window, he was forced to cut off the top of the figure, settling for a portrait bust. Over the next 12-15 months, he created a steel and fiberglass armature, covered it with painted silicone skin, and made the eyes and teeth out of resin. One hundred and seventeen hours of his time was spent hand-punching each hair into the silicone skin.
After more than a year of hard work, Dan had created Evasive Species. “He needed to be realistic enough that even a seasoned skeptic would find themselves considering the possibility of the creature’s existence,” said Chudzinski. The public got its first glimpse of Evasive Species at the Norman Rockwell Museum, before the artwork traveled with the exhibition to the Hunter Museum in Chattanooga, TN.
Evasive Species was selected for one of the top prizes in the 16th International ARC Salon Competition, beating out more than 5,400 entries from 75 countries. In addition to being awarded a spot in the group exhibition at Rehs Contemporary Galleries in New York City (Fall/Winter 2023), and a place in the book International Realism, Dan was also awarded the opportunity to have an image of Evasive Species placed in a time capsule and sent to the South Pole of the moon as part of the “Polaris Collection.”
The “Polaris Collection” is part of the Lunar Codex, and will be the first significant placement of contemporary art on the moon in 50 years. Art images will be laser-etched on nickel microfiche and/or digitized on terabyte memory cards before being launched by Space X. The launch is scheduled for this Fall or Winter, and will be live-streamed. After the time capsule is placed, Chudzinski will officially become the man who put Bigfoot on the moon. “Having my work in space was something that I never dreamed could be a possibility. Four-year-old Dan would applaud the life decisions that were made for this to become a reality,” said Chudzinski.