Mufflers come in all kind of gangly sizes, twists, and characters. They are one of the most organic-looking parts of an engine, it’s often said. So perhaps it was natural, after twenty years of welding them into place, that Lenny Prince should look at a heap of spare parts and see a potential figure.
Lenny Price, a man on the verge of fifty, is a successful man by the standards of the American Dream. As a self-described neglected child in a poor village in Guyana, he made his own toys from electronics and odd scrap. At 20, he brought that natural skill as a mechanic to New York, and found work welding in a muffler shop. In 1996, he opened his own.
“One thing muffler work does is give you a sense of how things fit together spatially—what angle fits in what space,” he said. Mr. Price owns Half Price Mufflers on Staten Island. About five years ago, with a free evening and a pile of scrap pipe, he began to entertain himself by making larger-than-life sculptures, mostly of human figures.
Now his shop sports a veritable army of figures: heroes, knights, robots, and astronauts. Visitors come from out of town to see them, even if his regular clientele thinks it’s a little cracked. After he replaced an aged but popular insect sculpture in Snug Harbor a few years ago, he found he had enough recognition in the community to open his own gallery near his shop. Lenny’s Creations, in West Brighton, is packed with his metal works.
There is a small army of armored robots with moving parts and a model of the Staten Island Ferry. President Obama is represented life-size, with a muffler for a head. The Michael Jackson bot has a white glove. And all of this bold, colorful work says exactly what the artist wants it to say.
“If someone looks at all this and says, ‘This guy can do anything he wants,’ that’s what I want,” Price says of his gallery. “This is how I crown myself as the king of what I do.”