Amidst all the hype surrounding real estate and renovation in Casco Antiguo, it can be easy to overlook some of the neighborhoods most authentic artists, and no I’m not talking about the guys who strum a guitar then ask for tips, nor the ones who paint larger than life canvases. No, I’m talking about true artists like this one I met just the other day. Frank he’s called.
Frank is sort of a simple guy; not much hair, a bit of a gut, and some sort of devious-looking growth just above his left eye. When I first met him, he was drinking a beer out on the street—a pastime I applaud. What he does for a living though, is even more radical. He makes birds in Casco Viejo Panama. Big ones.
Frank typically uses styrofoam to craft his aviary beauties, most of which stand 12 or 13 feet tall—something like tall bird gods. He can do parrots, eagles, toucans and even doves and the results usually look quite realistic. Frank also takes pride in a cemetery of beer bottles he has built up over, what looks like years. A Balboa graveyard of sorts.
When I first met him, Frank was working on a new horse project, the final sculpture of which was to stand about six feet tall and span the width of one small room. At the time, he was working on the head: a unicorn-looking cranium the size of a small Mitsubishi shifter car.
The next time I saw Frank, he had moved on to the tail, and the horse was starting to take shape. The third time, and once the animal was complete, I asked Frank how he planned on moving the thing out of the room he had built it in. Frank looked at me with this puzzled stare, as if to say yah know, we hadn’t thought about that yet.
Standing in Frank’s shop, you’ll watch little squads of kids passing through, jumping and running like little Panamanian Von Trapp children. On the last occasion, one of the kids stopped and peered into the doorway wearing only underwear, carrying a glass coke bottle. Frank told him to shoo, and like that, the kid was gone.
I hope to hang out more with Frank one of these days, crafting large birds and various other fauna. He takes pride in his work does Frank, it from the looks of the smiling toucan beak popping out his back window, his work takes pride in him.