She sees random, pointy metal pieces as potential teeth for a shark or claws for a bird rather than scraps to be thrown away and forgotten. The more rusted, dense and weathered, the greater the possibilities are for 3-D sculptor Gina Rossi.
Rossi is the woman behind the welding mask responsible for the functionally designed bike racks popping up around Midtown and downtown. Each rack doubles as an artistic sculpture crafted out of found metals, broken golf clubs, bolts and nails. She even recycled the blades of ice skates buried beneath the rubble of the historic Iceland Ice Skating Rink after it burned down more than two years ago.
“Iceland had burned down, and all the blades from the skates were going to be tossed,” Rossi said. “My first thought was no, no, no. There’s memories there. There’s history. I’m going to make something out of that.”
A mere glance around her studio space located at 20th and S streets reveals Rossi’s love for bicycles. Her road bike is mounted in midair; a cruiser chills by piles of scraps while her mountain bike rests near shelving full of materials waiting to be repurposed and perhaps, one day, secure her own rides.
“I just started to incorporate my artistic design with the functional element of secure bike lockup,” Rossi said. “I want to make a bike for the homeless … something that’s easy for them to hitch up and carry all their stuff. The bike I’m also going to make is one of those really tall bikes where two or three people can fit on it. So, someone for the driver and have this three-tiered effect.”
The first bike rack Rossi created stands in front of Gallery 2110 & The Sacramento Art Complex (2110 K St.), while her recycled Iceland blades are welded to the letters K-A-Y, doubling as a rack in front of Cafe Bernardo (1000 K St.) located at “The Kay” district downtown. Other favorite projects of Rossi’s include the Chinese-inspired dragon with forked tongue guarding the Shoki II Ramen House on 12th and R streets, followed by the New Helvetia Theatre’s (1028 R St.) theatrical happy and sad faces compiled of rods, bolts and cogs.
Rossi will continue to work on various bike racks and sculptures throughout Sacramento with her next venture due in front of the Nine27 Salon and Spa (927 20th St.), and for the Congregation B’nai Israel synagogue on Riverside Boulevard. Just this week, she was commissioned to work on yet another rack for Kupros Bistro on 21st Street. She also will fashion a screaming eagle mascot for this year’s graduating senior class at El Camino Fundamental High School – look for the Iceland blades in its wings.
As a certified metal inert gas welder, Rossi has paved the way for women in a largely male-dominated field. She spent years apprenticing with sculptural artists she admired, such as Phill Evans based out of Fair Oaks.
“Just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I can’t handle it. I can handle the heat. I can handle getting burned. I can buck up and handle it. It’s all in here and I can do it,” Rossi said, pointing to her head. “I remember getting sick and nauseated and I didn’t know what I was doing. But that made me feel challenged to find out, what am I really doing? What does this all mean, the gases, the heat [and] the sparks?”
By next summer, Rossi’s goal is to have bike racks littered throughout Midtown and downtown. From there, her vision includes a bicycle scavenger hunt that incorporates hidden trivia questions engraved on her pieces.
“I’m going to have different interesting finds about our city, some form of historical trivia,” said Rossi. “Get on your bike and find the riddle hidden on that bike rack, answer it and you’ll win a prize, like a welding class, or I’ll think of something. It’s a way for me to get my work out there and to give people what they want. [The racks are] functional, there’s a need, and it brings more interest to our city.”