Welcome to Jurustic Park
Where nothing is exactly as it seems
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD—There are plenty of ways one could describe Jurustic Park. Breathtaking, impressive, odd, unique, amusing, and scary might cover a wide range of the initial reactions felt by patrons that visit the home of Clyde and Nancy Wynia at M222 Sugar Bush Lane in Marshfield.
For me, though, at the heart of the place was a basic and alluring silliness. It was fun to be there, and despite the extraordinary amount of work it must take to compose the massive iron sculptures that span the landscape of his yard, Clyde would not allow me to remark on the deeper meaning of his art or ask about his methods as an artist.
“No, I play,” he says, batting away my question about how much work goes into making the sculptures.
Clyde’s items are available for purchase on-site, but he will not ship them, and there is no price of admission to simply enjoy a stroll through Jurustic Park.
Clyde uses black iron for his sculptures, much of which he gets at Shaw’s Wrecking Yard in Marshfield. He said that over the summer Jurustic Park receives about 15,000 visitors and that last year people from 34 different countries signed his guest book.
Clyde was a longtime attorney until he sold his share of his practice to his partner and started “playing” at Jurustic Park full time.
“That (being an attorney) was a good life, but it was a different life. I had a very good practice, but you just don’t have the pressure out here,” he said.
He has a sign posted at the entrance to the park with frequently asked questions and his responses.
How long does it take you to make a particular piece?
“I have no idea. I don’t care. I just keep having fun.”
Is there a serious or deep meaning to your work?
“Oh please, there are enough serious and deep meanings in ‘art’ to keep art critics artspeaking for millenniums. Let’s just have fun.”
Where do your ideas come from?
“I just keep digging out oxidized fossils from the marsh.”
The last answer requires some explanation. As impressive as the sculpture work at Jurustic Park is, the façade acted out by Clyde as he shows visitors around might be more extraordinary. Ask him about his art, and he will give you a puzzled look. He will say that these are just fossils that he found.
The Jurustic Park website says, “This site documents the efforts of amateur paleontologist Clyde Wynia to excavate and recreate as best as possible the now extinct creatures that inhabited the large McMillan Marsh near Marshfield, Wisconsin during the Iron Age.
“When farming and industry moved into the area in the mid-19th century, the creatures were often harvested for their parts that were then used in farm and industrial machinery. Over-harvesting eventually led to extinction of many species.”
It is a performance art that Clyde lives. Nobody pays him for his comedy. His sculptures are enough of an attraction, but that is not the point of Jurustic Park. Jurustic Park is the creation of another universe, a whimsical place, and Clyde’s masquerade as he leads guests around aids the feeling that they are indeed in a place unlike any other.
He points out some iron-sculpted frogs and tells me he is unable to take them anywhere because they urinate on everything.
“We’ve tried all kinds of behavioral modifications,” Clyde says, not breaking character. “Nothing works.”
A sculpted bird that shakes and convulses when someone pushes it has, he says, been seen by multiple neurologists, but nobody can figure out what is wrong. A large dragon he has constructed with helicopter blades spinning on its back, he says, will be a backup for Ministry St. Joseph’s Spirit helicopter.
“Seriously, four claws and a mouth, take five patients at a time,” he says in his deadpan style.
When I asked him how he developed such a unique style in his art, he responded that it just happens “every time I go off my meds.”
The front of the Wynias’ home resembles a “Hobbit House” from the book and movie series “The Lord of the Rings,” a feature that was constructed on Nancy Wynia’s request.
As the tour continued, Clyde showed me a pair of kaleidoscopes. When I asked if he made them, he responded, “My wife’s husband made it for me. He’s a jerk.” No hint of a smile touched his face.
When he brought me into his wife’s workshop, where she does glass work and fashions jewelry, Clyde finally let his guard down and just talked with me. He spoke about donating a significant amount of the money he makes at Jurustic Park to charity. He described how the park has been a great way to meet a lot of nice people.
He even told me why he goes into character when he shows people around his park.
“You learn what makes people laugh,” he said. “I love it. … I can’t tell a joke to save myself, but I can make people laugh all day here.”
Whether Clyde likes to admit it or not, he is an astonishing artist, both in his sculpture work and his performance art personality. The man has created a world of his own with its own rules, creatures, and standards.
When you leave Jurustic Park, you may think, “That was strange,” or, “That was amazing.” The only thing you know for sure upon leaving Jurustic Park is that from Clyde Wynia to his artwork to the Hobbit House, this place is truly one of a kind.
For more information about Jurustic Park, visit http://www.jurustic.com/.