Bunny Foo Foo

TUESDAY - MARCH 11, 2014 - ST. HELENA, CA - Artist Lawrence Argent installed a 35-foot-tall, stainless steel bunny leaping up into the Hall Wines vineyard on Highway 29 last week. "Bunny Foo Foo" is made of 3.3 metric tons of stainless steel, and takes its name from a children's poem. J.L. Sousa/Register

J.L. Sousa/Register

While the connection between wine and art is readily available in wineries around the valley, until now the art in the vineyards has largely been connected with things like pruning vines and arranging canopies. Not so any more. As of last week, a new work of art sprang into the Hall Wines vineyards in St. Helena.

Visible from Highway 29, “Bunny Foo Foo” is a 35-foot tall stainless-steel rabbit, created by artist Lawrence Argent, an Englishman known for his stand on challenging public notions of art. Argent has said that a problem with public art is its “invisibility” and that the general public often doesn’t even notice “works of art that now crowd American cities.”

This is not usually a problem with Argent’s creations, which include “Leap,” the giant red rabbit at the Sacramento airport; “I See What You Mean,” a four-story-tall blue bear that stands on a sidewalk peering into the Colorado Convention Center; and “I am Here,” a 13-ton panda, that was a public art project for International Financial Square in Chengdu, China.

Examples of Argent’s art can also be seen at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Mo., and The Holocaust Memorial at the University of Denver. He studied sculpture at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia and the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore. Since 2006, Argent has been the head professor of sculpture at the University of Denver.

“Bunny Foo Foo” takes his name from the children’s whimsical poem, which recounts “Little Bunny Foo Foo/ hopping through the forest/ scooping field mice/and bopping them on the head.”

Warned three times by a good fairy to cut it out, or she will turn him into a goon, Bunny Foo Foo ignores her, carries on with his bopping, and is turned into a goon. The morale of this tale is: “Hare today, Goon tomorrow.”

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For the new Argent sculpture, crafted from 3.3 metric tons of stainless steel, “little” has been dropped from Bunny Foo Foo’s name. Argent, who was in St. Helena installing “Bunny Foo Foo” last week, said that the mesh-like design of his St. Helena creation, was inspired by the vineyards.

Hall Vineyards proprietor Kathryn Hall said her own children, David and Jennifer, were fond of “Little Bunny Foo Foo,” but spending weekends at her family’s Mendocino vineyards, they changed the locale of the rabbit’s adventures to vineyards.

After seeing Argent’s other works, Hall said they were inspired to contact him.

“I am very excited that we now have a new, not so little Bunny Foo Foo hopping through our vineyard here in St. Helena,” Hall said. “Life feels like it comes full circle.”

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