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2017’s Best Salt Lick Art

Rainbows, pig mosaics, and strange shapes galore.

Kathy Pennington's mosaic-laden salt block, "Pigs Fly," took home second place in the "Forgery" category.
Kathy Pennington’s mosaic-laden salt block, “Pigs Fly,” took home second place in the “Forgery” category. All images courtesy Whit Deschner

A few weeks ago, I reported on the lead-up to this year’s Great Salt Lick Contest, a unique sculpture competition that’s been held in Baker City, Oregon, since 2007.

As with many art events, the works in question are made by community members, judged by local luminaries, and auctioned off for charity. The twist here comes from the material of choice—lunchpail-sized salt blocks—as well as the artists: cows, deer, and sheep, which spend weeks licking the cubes into unusual shapes.

The auction’s mastermind, local writer Whit Deschner, donates all of the proceeds to Parkinson’s research. His goal for this year—the event’s 11th—was to put the total donations over $100,000. Thanks to big earners like the above mosaic-based work—as well as a running gag that saw the auctioneer selling one block over and over again—they accomplished this, and more. “It was hectic and wonderful all at the same time,” Deschner says.

An artist puts some finishing touches on their entry.
An artist puts some finishing touches on their entry.

As usual, Deschner cannot vouch for the judges’ decisions. He is particularly flummoxed by the high showing of a piece called “Belgian Waffle,” which is basically a large divot in a squat white block of salt. “I thought [that one] was the worst,” he says. “But who am I to judge art?”

Take a closer look at the rest of this year’s winners below:

"Nude Descending a Staircase," by Hope Buckner, took first place in the "General Block" category as well as the People's Choice Award.
“Nude Descending a Staircase,” by Hope Buckner, took first place in the “General Block” category as well as the People’s Choice Award.
Don Herman's "Luclile Porcine" placed in the "Poem and Block" category. The accompanying poem starts: "Who licked this block, I do not know / A farm is up the canyon though."
Don Herman’s “Luclile Porcine” placed in the “Poem and Block” category. The accompanying poem starts: “Who licked this block, I do not know / A farm is up the canyon though.”
"One Drop At a Time," by Baker Head Start Preschool, won the "Forgery" category. Head Start students and their families made this piece by slowly dripping water and paint over a salt block.
“One Drop At a Time,” by Baker Head Start Preschool, won the “Forgery” category. Head Start students and their families made this piece by slowly dripping water and paint over a salt block.
"Belgian Waffle," by Wyatt Lee and Krista Sytes, took home second prize in the "General Block" category, to Deschner's chagrin.
“Belgian Waffle,” by Wyatt Lee and Krista Sytes, took home second prize in the “General Block” category, to Deschner’s chagrin.
Another view of "Forgery" runner-up "Pigs Fly," which also won the auction, selling for over $1600.
Another view of “Forgery” runner-up “Pigs Fly,” which also won the auction, selling for over $1600.
"Wallowa Mountains," by Don and Cheri Meyers, took home third place in the "General Block" category.
“Wallowa Mountains,” by Don and Cheri Meyers, took home third place in the “General Block” category.
"Total Eclipse of the Heart if Pigs Could Fly," by Stephanie Waldron Brown, won the "Poem and Block" category.
“Total Eclipse of the Heart if Pigs Could Fly,” by Stephanie Waldron Brown, won the “Poem and Block” category.