BY BRIAN HARTZ
If buildings have personalities, some of downtown Bloomington’s are downright whimsical. They carry Mike Wysong’s signature sculptures: enchanting gargoyle-like heads made of mortar.
With their exaggerated features and thick, unruly hair, the heads evoke Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things. They adorn the walls of Bloomington Bagel Company, Trojan Horse, Harley-Davidson of Bloomington, and Bloomingfoods East; there’s one in the alley behind Nick’s English Hut, and dozens in the backyards of homes across Bloomington.
Wysong, 63, is the semiretired owner/operator of Bluegill Construction Co. He humbly insists he’s not an artist. “Basically, it’s a lark,” he says. “They’re fun to do.”
He created the first head at a worksite using leftover mortar—as a decorative way to cap a chimney. That was in 1991, and since then he’s created heads at the request of dozens of clients.
“You just build up that mortar, and they talk to you,” he says.
“People have said he should make molds and crank them out and sell them,” says his wife, Linda. “But each one is a unique individual piece. That’s the art of it.”
Many of the heads appear windblown, wrinkled, and ravaged by Father Time. But Wysong says they hold up well to the elements. “I’ve never had one crack. I’ve had some stolen.”
Wysong founded his construction company in 1982, about five years after he and Linda moved from Florida to Brown County. They built their present home in eastern Monroe County in 1986. It has a mortar head keeping watch at the driveway entrance and an entire wall of heads behind the garage.
Now that he is semiretired and has more free time, Wysong says he’d like to create and incorporate heads into the overall designs of buildings.
“People have always told me I should make these and sell them, but I’d say, ‘Well, I’ve already got a job.’ Now, I’d like to spend a day or two at a place and build a head right into some landscaping or a retaining wall. It would enhance them.”