Steven Posson's 'The Flying Mile' Celebrates the Bronze Age of Speed

Sculptor Steven Posson pays tribute to Albert “Shrimp” Burns in an investment-cast bronze statue called The Flying Mile.
By Todd Rafferty
January/February 2013
Add to My MSN

Albert “Shrimp” Burns rode for Harley-Davidson before switching to Indian in 1920. He died following a race accident in 1921.
Photo Courtesy Tod Rafferty
Slideshow


Content Tools

Related Content

1938 Crocker

A 1938 Crocker at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Leeds, Ala.

1913 Flying Merkel Model 71

A 1913 Flying Merkel Model 71 on display with other classic motorcycles at Barber Vintage Motorsport...

Found on eBay: 1947 Scott Flying Squirrel

Here's something you don't see every day: Yes, it's a well-loved Scott Flying Squirrel, ready to rid...

Cycle World's Senior Motorsports Editor Talking Motorcycles

Tonight's episode of Talking Motorcycles with Barry Boone (8 p.m. EST, July 30, 2014) will feature M...

Sculptor Steven Posson is a practitioner of what might be called motoring performance art. His bronze figures don’t actually move or make noise, but motion, speed and excitement are implicit in their forms.  

The “Flying Mile” is a 6-foot long figure of Albert “Shrimp” Burns, arguably the most dramatic and popular racer of motorcycling’s golden age of the nineteen-teens. A rider for both Harley-Davidson and Indian, the California native was known for his grit, daredevil style and “impish grin.” At the Beverly Hills board track championship in 1921, he won the first race and crashed in the second, collecting an array of cuts, bruises and splinters. He spent the next race in the field hospital, then, his wounds dressed and bandaged, he reappeared to great applause and won the final race of the day. 

Posson works in the traditional method of investment-cast bronze, also known as the lost wax process. His latest piece depicts Burns on a 1914 Indian 8-valve going for top speed on a mile dirt track, both wheels in drift, powering into the straightaway. Machines like the Indian were basically reinforced bicycles with powerful engines. They were direct drive, the throttle set wide open with just a kill button for a brake. Top speeds were around 110mph. 

While the artist gives acute attention to the mechanical details, he spends even more time on the rider. “People relate to people,” Posson says. If the human shape is incorrect or poorly rendered, the defect becomes a distraction, a part that doesn’t quite fit.  

Posson prefers the impression of speed over pure realism. The spokeless, slightly elliptical wheels evoke early racing photographs, when men were fast and shutter speeds slow. Machine and rider become an integrated form in the thrust for velocity. Slight rooster-tails trace the tires’ hunt for traction, the rider’s eyes fixed on the perfect line. Posson’s sculpture captures the marriage of machinery, courage and dance that defines racing. 

Perhaps we can establish a label for this style, one that future art historians may find descriptive. Neo-classic moto-realism? That might work. In which case, upcoming students may refer to Steven Posson as Motoangelo, an early master of the form. 

Posson plans a limited edition of 10 sculptures, priced, if you have to ask, at $70,000. Potential collectors should consider that the sculpture weighs more than 500 pounds, and the marble base about 600. In cases where domestic harmony precludes the statue assuming a place of honor on the living room floor, the Flying Mile will do fine outdoors in its natural element. “Just give it a coat of wax every few years,” the artist says. More info: Posson Art








Post a comment below.

 








The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!
First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
 

Motorcycle Classics is America's premier magazine for collectors and enthusiasts, dreamers and restorers, newcomers and life long motorheads who love the sound and the beauty of classic bikes. Every issue  delivers exciting and evocative articles and photographs of the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!

Save Even More Money with our RALLY-RATE plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our RALLY-RATE automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $4.95 and get 6 issues of Motorcycle Classics for only $24.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $29.95 for a one year subscription!