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RVA Lesser-Known Monuments

My favorite is Joe Ondishko’s “Onyx Moai” a reproduction of the primitive statues on Easter Island. (private collection)

Another piece by Joe that is nearby.




2 responses

  1. Joe Ondishko’s “Onyx Moai”

    Source :
    Richmond Times – Dispatch
    Publication date: 2005-09-25

    By Dena Sloan

    It started as vague thoughts of stucco in Joe Ondishko’s mind and ended up as more than 15 feet of Styrofoam, plywood, plastic pipe and, of course, stucco in his backyard.

    The newly installed fog machine, torch, rotating colored spotlights and bamboo make for nice ambience, but the main attraction hiding behind the South Richmond resident’s house is undoubtedly what neighbors call “the tiki man.”

    “If it’s simple, then I don’t like it,” Ondishko said after displaying his recently completed statue “Onyx Moai,” a reproduction of the primitive statues on Easter Island.

    The smoking and lighted accouterments were some of the easier ways to accessorize the moai (pronounced “mo-eye”). The statue also rotates 180 degrees with the help of a motorized chain-and-pulley system in its base.

    For a guy who spent 15 years overseeing warehouse distribution and energy management systems for the former Standard Drug Co., devoting more than two years to constructing a massive blue-eyed moai behind his Woodland Heights home might seem somewhat out of the ordinary.

    The husband of a bank executive and father of three children, Ondishko graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University’s painting and printmaking program “a thousand years ago” and only accidentally stumbled into the drugstore business, dividing his nonworking hours between his family and art.

    He left the company in the early 1990s to make more time for creativity and to pursue his goals of learning to play the piano, make resin castings and create a statue with stucco.

    The piano hasn’t yet been conquered, resin spiders sit on the floor of his workshop, and now the stucco-covered moai is a conversation piece for neighbors, visitors and passing strangers who stop to look.

    The statue’s size forced construction and assembly outside. Rain and snow slowed the process. And technical difficulties — How to rotate only 180 degrees and not the full 360? How to stick Styrofoam to the plywood? — proved to be challenges. Hooking up the whole production to a power source, Ondishko said, was harder than it looks.

    “Joe is an interesting fellow,” said Katharine Warren, 86, a neighbor who enjoyed watched the statue come together from her kitchen window. “He’s an artist; he does all sorts of nice, pretty things. I wouldn’t want that thing in my backyard. It’s all right next door — it’s something to talk about. … I have my friends look out my window.”

    The Ondishko home is full of Joe’s art — stained glass, photos, abstract paintings, a sculpture of metal wire — as well as supplies to quench his ever-present hankering for limeades.

    House painting, home repairs and concrete work provide supplemental income, but there is time dedicated to creativity.

    Ondishko’s workshop is a crazed cluster of tools, sketches and old Jif peanut butter jars filled with this and that. Some of his 7- foot-tall paintings sit near a far wall.

    He is already making plans for next year’s Halloween decorations (this year’s decor of massive spiders, flaming skeleton heads and other surprises is being assembled in his workshop), and he plans to start in on another piece of primitive art in a neighbor’s yard in the spring.

    “He can manage a distribution center and all the linear thinking required to do that, and then his art is, it’s Joe, it’s very unusual,” said Thomas Rosenthal, whose family owned Standard Drug until its sale in 1993.

    “He’s pretty incredible, really well-rounded, always amazing. … His art, I think, speaks for him.”


    November 12, 2012 at 6:34 pm

  2. As a note : I was told of this project of photographing lesser known – monuments a couple of days ago, so I rushed to get this one before this front approaching takes all the turning leaves off the trees. I could have really nailed this a week ago but these aren’t so bad. Thanks to all of Joe’s friends that helped me in this short notice. Hope Joe likes these!

    November 12, 2012 at 8:43 pm

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