This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Salt Lake City artist Elmer Presslee (aka Bill Robbins) doesn't sell much art in his hometown, but he does very well in Germany with his bizarre, whimsical pieces fabricated from plastic resin and foam.
Last week, Robbins inadvertently became the talk of Cologne, Germany, where he is working, triggering what became something of an ongoing work of performance art. It began when he threw out a sculpture, "Mid-life Crisis Middle American Olmec Style," that he had hoped to sell for $6,000.
"I set the head out as rubbish, and somehow it ended up at the cathedral and from there went on a tour of Cologne," Robbins says. "I'm absolutely flabbergasted by the whole thing. It's surreal."
On the surface, the back story of the artwork that Germans now call "Cult Head," created by an artist who chose the name of Elmer Presslee, does sound surreal.
You may wonder why Robbins, who considers himself a serious, full-time artist, would throw away what is arguably one of his masterpieces, which had been acclaimed at Cologne's Artfair 21.
"My art is precious to me to the point it's finished," he says. "After it's finished and completed, I don't care anymore. It's not a big deal to me. The phoenix has to burn bright."
So when Robbins learned it would cost $2,000 to ship the unsold 4-by-4-foot head from Cologne to the United States, he decided to set it by the museum's Dumpster for the trash pickup.
But someone grabbed it, and in the early hours of Nov. 3, the head turned up in front of Cologne's medieval-era cathedral. When garbage men were about to haul it away, a photographer from the newspaper Bild showed up and talked them into giving it to him.
Then Bild took the orphaned head on a tour of Cologne, photographing the artwork at famous landmarks.
That's when things really started to get weird: After the "Kult Kopf" appeared in Bild, the newspaper was contacted by the producers of a popular German TV soap, "Among Us," who wanted the head for a cameo in an upcoming show.
Then the writers of "Count Down," a television crime show with a viewership of 4.2 million (and which apparently is considered the German equivalent of Fox's "24"), wrote the "Cult Head" into a script. The episode will air in Feburary.
Robbins is delighted that his discarded work is living on, and he doesn't expect any money out of its German TV success.
"It was laid on the doorstep of a church," he says. "Now it is adopted and leads its own life. I can't begin to express how pleased that makes me."
The creator of the 'Cult Head'
Salt Lake City artist Elmer Presslee, aka Bill Robbins, will show his work in January at the Tin Angel restaurant, 365 W. 400 South, Salt Lake City. It's unclear if der Kult Kopf will make the opening. For more information on the artist, visit http://www.elmerpresslee.com.