NORTH HILLS >> You could say artist Harlan Hobbs is more than meets the eye.
The 39-year-old paraplegic has completed his largest and most complex art project yet — a Transformer-inspired sculpture that stands over 13 feet tall in his front yard and is attracting visitors from around the region. With the help of some close friends, Hobbs finished “Maus Man” — made out of a couple hundred car parts and other metal pieces welded together — just in time for the June 27 release of the Michael Bay sequel “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”
“It began with trying to find something to do with a pile of extra car parts I started to accumulate for doing a regular transformation on my (Ford) van, which was an ‘89 e350,” Hobbs, who uses a wheelchair, said outside his North Hills home at 15951 Bahama Street on Sunday. “As parts were coming off and piling up, I heard of the new ‘Transformer' movie coming out. I thought, you know what, I should be able to make something out of these parts. I already made sculptures in the past. Let's see if we can make something a little bigger. It grew about 6 feet larger than I thought it was going to.”
The roughly 2,200-pound robot sculpture, which holds a “spinning blade of death” and is topped with a rotating communication device, towers in his front yard near his large wheelchair accessible, four-wheel drive “Maus Van.” He jokingly named his van, which he bought last July and now has a front end that he converted into a 2004 Super Duty pickup truck, after the heavy World War II Maus tank due to its “horrible” gas mileage.
Both the van and the sculpture share certain features, such as identical “Maus” license plates and black and blue painted stripes, to link them together and convey the concept of vehicles turning into robots as depicted in the science fiction action film based on the Transformers toy line.
“I think this is the last of the Decepticons from the Transformer series from what I understand,” Hobbs joked, referring to the main antagonists in the “Transformers” movies and related comic books. “They have all been destroyed.”
After helping care for his late quadriplegic mother who suffered from multiple sclerosis and had been using a wheelchair for years, Hobbs became paralyzed himself from the middle of his chest down to his feet after his car was struck by another near his home in 2002.
“Living with someone that was unable to use their arms or legs ... I knew how lucky I was to be able to use both my arms from the very beginning,” Hobbs said. “Whatever life deals you, you either make the decision to let it destroy you or keep going and so I just roll with it.”
In 2010, Hobbs developed a bed sore that nearly killed him, he said, and he spent the next two years undergoing a series of surgeries and recovering. It was then that he started sculpting with clay to keep himself entertained. After he was cleared to resume a normal life, he has done all he can to stay active, he said.
About a year ago, he made a “whimsical little robot character” named Jack out of some extra car parts that stood at his front gate and waved to passing cars. Then Hobbs made a dinosaur that he calls “Cinemasaurus Rex” out of movie reels and movie reel containers, which still stands in his front yard.
When Hobbs found that he needed additional car parts for “Maus Man,” he put out a Craigslist ad and received about $12,000 in new suspension parts that were donated to him. The sculpture is made up of other materials too, including computer motherboards, parts from a $2,400 router he dissected and a hot dog machine, reflectors from light fixtures and a networking rack. At night, both the van and the sculpture are lit up with special effects.
On Sunday morning, neighbors and friends gathered at Hobbs' home to admire “Maus Man” and its many pieces.
Hobbs' friend Mark Hovis, 41, of Santa Clarita said he didn't expect the sculpture to be as large as it is but noted his friend “always goes over the top.”
“He's one of a kind, for sure,” Hovis, who brought his family, said. “Just everything life's thrown at him, he gets through and overcomes and then some.”
His 20-year-old daughter, Melissa Hovis, said she thought the sculpture was “really cool” and enjoyed studying it up close.
“There's a lot of car parts that I didn't know could be used for these purposes but he made it work,” she said.
Follow Brenda Gazzar on Twitter: @bgazzar