Two bald eagles battle in the sky. Their long wings clash like great swords while their quick beaks pick and tear at one another. They whirl and dance, press together and swoop apart.
Clasped in one of the raptor’s talons is each one’s desire: a living venomous diamondback rattlesnake.
It’s more than a fight for their next meal though. It’s a struggle between birds of prey that will end in one eagle’s death.
In a desperate bid to preserve its life, the viper strikes its long fangs at the doomed eagle grasping it.
“He’s going to fall out of the sky,” says Comox sculptor Wes Seeley of the envisioned battle. “And once the venom goes through him, the other one is going to get lunch.”
Seeley has had about 2,500 hours to consider their struggle. The life-sized wooden sculpture, which is really two eagle sculptures connected at the wings, took him a year to build.
From his working days on a boom boat, Seeley would observe the graceful movements of soaring bald eagles. He would listen to their guttural and shrill calls, and witness their ferocity and dominance of the sky.
Now in his retirement he brings those memories to life again. The representations are made from the trees on which eagles waited to spy their next prey.
Meticulously cut feather pieces of yellow and red cedar add a texture to the broad wings. Two-toned aromatic cedar adorns special parts of the wings, “They’re nice and dark,” explains Seeley. “And [they] have a little blonde in there too.”
The aroma of sawed cedar is pervasive in his 20-by-30-foot workshop. A squat black woodstove burns his reject pieces on cold winter days. Seeley estimates around 1,800 individual pieces go into one eagle project, but says he’s never counted.
He recently sold two other eagles to custumers in Wyoming. One completed eagle sells for around $70,000. As for his latest sculpture of two eagles fighting over a rattlesnake, Seeley hasn’t set a price.
“I’m open to offers,” he says.
Selling the sculpture would allow him to build a bigger shop on his Comox property. He only has room in his garage-made-workshop for one project at a time.
“My ultimate goal is to have two or three pieces I can work on simultaneously,” he explains.
The local artist grew up on Quadra Island and learned to swim around Rebecca Spit. He began sculpting eagles in 2011. Before that, he created detailed fish boat replicas.
Seeley has ingrained himself in the artistic community and feels positive about the Valley’s art scene.
“There’s so many great artists around,” he says. “We’re all so supportive of each other. It’s just such a creative community.”
If his garage door is open stop by and check out his sculptures for yourself at 2211 Gull Ave in Comox. He might be blaring Michael Jackson’s Number Ones but welcomes visitors. Maybe he’ll tell you about his next ambitious project.
“Can you imagine four eagles in a globe shape?” he says with a smile. “The sky’s the limit now.”
Dave Flawse, Special to The Comox Valley Record