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Barbara Hepworth 1903 - 1975

Without a doubt, the foremost woman sculptor of the 20th century, Barbara Hepworth is responsible in part for the emergence and acceptance of Abstract Art.Barbara in her studio circa 1950’s, with white marble sculpture and black cat.

Even before I started working in stone I was interested in sculpture and was inspired by a book I found in 1988 at our local Library used book sale, titled “Barbara Hepworth, a Pictorial Autobiography,” published by the TATE Gallery, 1970.

The very next summer on a boat trip to Canada I meet a stone sculptor on  Salt Spring Island. He was kind enough to give me my first two pieces of stone to carve, which resulted in thirty plus years of discovery and joy as an artist.
View of her Trewyn Studio (just as she left it.) Barbara died here of smoke inhalation from an accidental fire on 20 May, 1975 at the age of 72. (Photo by Arliss Newcomb.)
Six years ago on a trip to the UK with my husband Mike, we traveled to see her Museum and studio in St. Ives, near Lands End in Cornwall. It was a most moving and profound experience for me walking in her sculpture garden and seeing her working studio with all her tools just as she left them to stop for a tea break. While she dozed off for a short nap, the hotplate warming the tea water started a smoky fire which resulted in her death from smoke inhalation, May 20, 1975. She was seventy-two years old. A very great loss to the art world.

Born in 1903 in Wakefield, UK, she was a budding artist at a very young age.
At 17 seventeen she was accepted as a scholarship student at the Leeds School of Art.
Henry Moore was a fellow student. At nineteen she received a traveling scholarship
to go to Italy and study. There she meets many of the young leading names in the new movement of Abstract Art: Arp, Picasso, Brancusi and John Skeaping, whom she married at age twenty-four. Their son Paul was born two years later. Together they held several shows in both Europe and England which brought them public notice as artists of note. In 1931 she meet Ben Nicholson and in 1934 she gave birth to triplets, Simon, Rachel and Sarah. In 1938 they married. Because of the oncoming of WW2 they moved from their studios near London to the small town of St. Ives in Cornwall, where they both contributed to the war effort. Barbara’s Trewyn studio showing some of her projects under way at the time of her death in l975. (Photo by Arliss Newcomb, seen in the wall mirror.)

A sculpture she was working on at the time of her death. (Photo by Arliss Newcomb.)Hepworth was a very prolific sculptor, and produced over six hundred works of art over her lifetime, including many works of public art in England and across Europe. Most notable was "SINGLE FORM" installed in the courtyard of the United Nations in New York on June 11,1964 in honor of Dag Hammarskjold, the UN’s first president.

She is also noted for many of her sculptures being pierced (with a hole.) In 1931 she sculpted "PIERCED FORM." She said "the hole connects one side to the other, making it immediately more three-dimensional." (Henry Moore's first sculpture with a hole was carved in 1932.)

Three years ago, on a second trip to the UK, Mike’s son James organized a trip for us to go to the city of Wakefield, her place of birth just south of the Scottish border, to visit the Hepworth-Wakefield Museum. On display is a large collection of both finished work and rediscovered working models for her bronze sculptures. A short drive away is the beautiful five-hundred acre Yorkshire Sculpture Park with her multi-figure "FAMILY OF MAN," along with pieces by Henry Moore and Andy Goldsworthy.“Pierced Form” of pink alabaster from 1932, thought to be one of her first iconic hole sculptures.
Arliss with a Hepworth sculpture in the garden of Trewyn studio.
I recommend this trip if you are traveling in that part of the country.
A recent photo of Hepworth’s “Single Form” in front of the United Nations Secretariat building.

Women As Sculptors

Introduction: Women as SculptorsFemale Sculptors

Who knows when the first woman picked up something sharp and decided to use it to carve an image in stone? The studies of many early ethnographers and cultural anthropologists indicate that women often were the principal artisans in the cultures considered as Neolithic, creating their pottery, textiles, baskets, and jewelry. However, no mention is made of stone carvers at this point.
The earliest three-dimensional public artworks made by women were wax figures. These were life-size clothed effigies for which women modeled the hands and heads, hyper-realistically, in wax. (The clothes were, probably, made by women too, but there is hardly any research on this yet.)
Women built a specialist tradition in wax modeling, going back at least as far as the middle Ages, when nuns made candles, flowers, and statues of saints in wax. In America, Patience Wright (1725-1786), who had not only a talent for art but a talent for self-promotion as well, is usually credited with being the first professional woman sculptor.Patience began modeling in bread dough and local clay. Widowed early, she turned her hobby into a means of support. Wax was readily available from candle makers and required no tools or training to use. Capitalizing on her talent and forceful personality, she began a traveling wax works show, moved to London, met Benjamin Franklin, was received by and modeled portraits of the king and queen, and became a legend in her own time.
During the eighteenth century, a number of enterprising women, took up wax modeling, among them Marie Grosholtz (1761–1850), later known as Mme Tussaud. These women specialized in waxworks of prominent contemporaries, and some even traveled from city to city in order to show their homemade, but very popular collections of waxworks of prominent contemporaries to the local public for a fee.
 Such work, which continued through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, all suggest the sculptural back doors through which eighteenth-century women artists entered the domain of public sculpture.  In wasn’t until the mid-1800s that a new generation of women stone sculptors emerged. Going against the accepted role of wife and mother, these women were often ridiculed and ostracized. The lucky ones had the financial and emotional support of their families and the private means to afford materials and formalized training. In America, women could attend academies such as the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League in New York, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and the Art Institute of Chicago. However, many chose to study in Italy and established studios there, taking advantage of the company of stone carvers and craftsmen as well as the ready supply of white statuary marble. These artists worked in the prevailing neoclassical style for their monuments and commissions. The first “school” of women sculptors arose around Rome based Harriet Hosmer (1830-1908,) Anne Whitney (1821-1915) and Edmonia Lewis (1844-1911.)

Six of the many women who broke through the gender ceiling

1856 marble Beatrice Cenci by Harriet HosmerHarriet Hosmer (1830-1908)

began her life in Watertown, Massachusetts and from an early age was often to be found in a clay pit near her home “modeling horses, dogs, sheep, men and women.” Her high spirits and strong will earned her expulsion from school not just once but three times. After school she decided to pursue sculpture in earnest. Although her father encouraged her, the rest of Massachusetts was not so understanding. Even her friend Nathaniel Hawthorne despaired over her unmarried state and her “jaunty costume” which consisted of a “sort of man’s sack of purple broadcloth, a male shirt, collar and cravat and a little cap of black velvet.” Fortunately, she came from a supportive family who enabled her to go to Rome and study. Even though her “Beatrice Cenci” (1857), was a triumph at the 1857 Royal Academy exhibition in London, she nevertheless still had to deal continually with rumours that one or another of her male associates did her work. Slander and prejudice dogged most of her career. Anne Whitney (1821-1915), also from Massachusetts, was driven by a passion for social justice and many of her sculptures reflected her social sympathies. Her colossal “Africa” (1864, destroyed) embodied antislavery sentiments in an idealized neoclassical form. Sometimes her work proved too controversial—for example, Roma (1869), a realistic depiction of the city of Rome as an impoverished old beggar woman, which with its irreverence caused a sensation when it was exhibited. Experiencing much of the same prejudice that Harriet Hosmer faced, and with a similarly supportive family, Anne too went to Rome where she was one of several young American women sculptors who went to work there among their male colleagues. In 1875 Whitney won a national commission to portray abolitionist Charles Sumner, but, when it was discovered that the designs were by a woman, her submission was rejected. 

Marble 1867 Forever Free. Edmonia LewisEdmonia Lewis (1844-1911)
had not only to struggle with prejudice against women sculptors, but also against her mixed black and Chippewa heritage. After school she went to Boston, the center of liberal thought at that time, and began studying with Anne Whitney. Eventually, she too went to Rome to study, there creating life-size marble works celebrating emancipation and her Indian heritage. Although some feel that her work lacks the conventional polish of some of her contemporaries, her passion, expressiveness and ethnic content have great appeal. Her life-size marble “Forever Free” powerfully symbolizes the emancipation of black people. Lewis said that she was expressing her “strong sympathy for all women who have struggled and suffered.” Refusing to be stopped by racism or the patronizing attitudes of her times, she became the first major black sculptor in America.

3 Youth Taming The Wild by Anna Hyat HuntingtonAnna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973)
In the early 1900s, although it was still considered odd for a woman to choose sculpture as a vocation, more and more women became accepted. One of the most respected and influential, was the renowned sculptor of animals, Anna Hyatt Huntington, who broke new ground for women sculptors. Her bronze “Joan of Arc” (1915) was the first equestrian statue by a woman. Independent of spirit, her formal training was short and she could often be found at the Bronx Zoo, “a tall young woman in a tailor-made frock and red plumed hat, doing a clay study of a bison.” She did not attend art school aside from studying briefly at the Art Students League in New York City. Huntington was a self-made success with a natural talent for modeling detailed sculptures of animals and enormous equestrian sculptures portraying the likes of Joan of Arc (New York City), El Cid (New York City and Seville, Spain), and Andrew Jackson (Lancaster, South Carolina.)
Although she had no plans to marry, she finally accepted the repeated proposals of wealthy philanthropist Archer Huntington. Now, with unlimited financial resources at her disposal, she was able to work on a larger scale and support the work of other artists. The Huntingtons were responsible for the founding of fourteen museums and four wild life preserves. The most famous of these being the 9,000 acre Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina founded by Anna and Archer in 1931. Originally intended as a setting for her sculptures, she soon commissioned works from her friends and it eventually developed into this country’s first public sculpture garden and has the world’s largest collection of figurative sculpture by American artists in an outdoor setting. This award-winning sculptor lived to be nearly 100, making art until the year before she died.
Abraham Lincoln by Vinni Ream

Vinnie Ream (1847–1914)
Ream is the sculptor of an iconic marble Abraham Lincoln that stands in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol (unveiled 1871.) A virtually untrained 18-year-old, Ream was the first woman to win such a commission from the federal government. She completed a plaster model for the statue in her studio and then, accompanied by her parents, took it to Rome in 1869 to translate it into white Carrera marble. In 1875, up against better-known male sculptors, Ream again won a major commission from the U.S. government, this time for a bronze of Civil War hero Admiral David G. Farragut. She went on to create portrait busts of other military and political figures of that era. Two later sculptures—Samuel Kirkwood (1906) and Sequoyah (1912-14)—are displayed in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. Ream abandoned sculpture for many years in deference to her husband’s wishes, but in her later years she executed a statue of Iowa governor Samuel Kirkwood (1906), as well as the model for a statue of Sequoyah (1912–14), both for Statuary Hall in the Capitol.

The Three Bares 1931 By Gertrude Vanderbilt WhitneyGertrude Vanderbilt Whitney 1875-1942
Bearing the surnames of two notable families, Gertrude could certainly have gotten by as a socialite, but she became a highly influential art patron (cofounding the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1930) and pursued sculpture, finding that she had a natural talent for it. Whitney created numerous dramatic memorials throughout the country and the world. Some of her better-known works include The Titanic Memorial (1914–31; in Washington, D.C.), The Scout (1923–24; in Cody, Wyoming), and the Peter Stuyvesant Monument (1936–39; in New York City).

But ironically, the prevalence of stone sculpture by women during the Suffrage Movement of the latter part of the19th Century and the early 1900s began to take a downturn in post-war America. Around the 40s, the image of woman as homemaker seemed to take over and it wasn’t until the feminist movement of the 1970s that acceptance of women in new fields began to be seen again. Little by little, prejudice against women as sculptors grew less adamant and by the late 20th century there were many successful women stone sculptors. Cleo Hartwig (1911-1988), Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975,) Jane B. Armstrong (1921-2012) and Anna Mahler (1904-1988,) to name only a few. It has been a long slow ascent for women as sculptors. Starting in caves making household crafts and goddess worship paraphernalia, they were denied anything much more than that until a few began modeling figures in wax to make a living with traveling displays. With a few lucky breaks and access to some money, a handful of women began producing world-class art, allowing them to finally force their way into what had been man’s domain and produce their own renaissance.

Here’s to women everywhere, past and present, who have worked hard to follow their muses and create their magnificent art that we see throughout the world today.

Exotic Peru

Dear NWSSA, Vic Picou and Alfonso Rodriguez Medina

I’m listening to Peruvian music and it takes me zooming back 4,500 miles to Exotic Peru. The clock went too quickly, yet I tried to take in each every awesome moment. Images of antiquity and mystery, the faces, and hugs of gentle people, the haunting flute music, bromeliads growing at 10,00 feet, the magnificent clouds over the snow laden Andes, the current art of the children and the mastery of stone work. Ahh, these deep impressions on my soul. Like being transfused with cells of granite, bright colors and the pulse of real life.

Machu Picchu Inca stoneworkThanksgiving was spent with Alfonso Rodriquez Medina and his three loving sons, at their home and marble factory in Lima. Visiting him in his homeland was unforgettable. If you don’t know Alfonso, he attended Camp B several times. This master craftsman danced while he forged tools. He sang as he carved stone as gifts to the auction.

On this visit, he gave me a lovely 10” marble carving of ‘mother and child.’ Alfonso would like to attend Pilgrim Firs 2018. (Maybe we can arrange a teaching appointment for him. You’ve got to know this fine gentleman.)
David Webb at Machu Picchu
Traveling with Dave Webb (NWSSA friend) and his partner Gene, plus meeting new friends in our small group of sixteen, was fun. Being south of the Equator for the first time was a big hit on this trip arranged by Friendly Peru.

Machu Picchu Granite hitching post The stone edifices of hundreds of years ago brought up many questions. How were these multi-ton boulders of granite, andesite and basalt moved uphill, precisely carved and installed without mortar? They remain in place, but when earthquakes occur, they “shake, rattle and roll” back into place. I think the Inca people had help from “galactic travelers” who knew stone and tools to create this engineering marvel.

At Machu Picchu, (7th wonder of the world) on November 27, I contemplated Inca life, and their mysterious disappearance, the Spanish invasion/colonization, and the clash/assimilation of cultures. I tried to grasp the tale of their history, but the “tales” are conflicting. I saw remnants of their toils and their obvious loss. How was life for the five hundred people who dwelled there? That night, I “astral projected” back to Machu Picchu, an experience not to forget. (I didn’t climb the Inca Trail, but I saw the crystals in the granite and the green of the grass.)

Vic PicouIn closing, I strongly suggest going to Peru. Consult your MD about Rx for high altitude sickness prevention, and enjoy the coca leaves and tea!

Ve A Peru!'Mother and Child" Carrara Marble, Alfonso Rodriguez Medina, Peru    Stone walkway of Cusco

You might want to check out some of these amazing places on the web.Salt Works of Maras
  • Larco Herrera Museum, Lima (45,000 Inca ceramic items) and impressive figurative stone collection, and a fine restaurant.
  • 15th-century Franciscan Monastery of San Francisco in Lima.
  • Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire.
  • Pisac, the ruined mountain city with its marvelously terraced hillsides.
  • Ollantaytambo, an Inca site.
  • Maras Salt Works
  • The iconic Machu Picchu at 8,000 feet
  • Chinchero in the Southern Sierras at 12,200 feet.

'Crossing Point' Finds a New Home

IN LA CONNER, WASHINGTON“Crossing Point” in its new location in Conner Waterfront Park on the Swinomish Channel.
By Tracy Powell

Editors’ note: The day was bright and sunny; the kind of day that can draw stone carvers out into the open air to work and then drive them back inside when their hands and feet go numb. It was the end of the first week in December in La Conner, Washington and the outside temperature hovered around the 40 degree mark with a chilling breeze blowing up the Swinomish Channel.
A La Conner city work crew, dressed for the weather, was using a big forklift to transport two granite boats, a large wheel/drum and a reader board from the Skagit County Historical Museum, up on the hill, down to the new and still under construction Conner Waterfront Park. A half mile of boardwalk, now about half built, will connect the city center to the new Park, with shops and cafes on one side and the Swinomish Channel on the other.

A La Conner City employee steadies the canoe as the forklift moves it to its new channel side pad. Tracy Powel watches from a safe distance.CROSSING POINT is the name Kalia Gentiluomo gave to her original project after a, now gone, pioneer swing bridge over the channel. In its final iteration, it included three pieces: a Native American canoe, a tugboat used by the settlers and a commemorative wheel/drum with inscription.The canoe coming to rest in full view of houses on the Swinomish Indian Reservation, Fidalgo Island

The initial carving work was done at the 2005 Camp Brotherhood Symposium by a host of NWSSA members using granite provided by Marenakos. It was a joy to behold the crowd of carvers, who spent the week joyfully drilling, wedging, hammering and grinding, to rough out all three pieces at once. When the symposium wrapped up, the sculptures went their separate ways, for their final carving and finishing. Kirk McLean took home the Tugboat and Dan Michael took the Canoe, and with the help of half a dozen heroic NWSSA carvers, finished them beautifully in the next several months. Lisa Ponder completed the third piece, the Wheel/Drum), by sandblasting the lettering, which reads “Welcome Friends and Relatives” in English and Lushootseed, the local native dialect. An interpretive sign was made by Marenakos, of Wilkeson sandstone.Conner Park with “Crossing Point in place as viewed from the Rainbow Bridge in La Conner.

This ambitious collaborative project was presented to the Town of La Conner in 2008 as a tribute to the shared marine traditions of the Swinomish Tribe on Fidalgo Island and the pioneer settlers on the mainland. It was installed in Gilkey Square, at the west end of Morris St in La Conner, adjacent to the east landing of the old swing bridge. CROSSING POINT stayed there for a few years, and became a part of community activities such as concerts and holiday celebrations during that time. Access to “Crossing Point” is now over and through this pedestrian, stainless steel “Salmon” bridge designed and built by Ries Niemi. Tracy Powel and Oliver (Ollie) Iversen, one of the Park Commissioners, officiating at the relocation site.

Then in need the year the Town decided to renovate the square, and so the sculpture group was moved a few blocks away, to the parking lot of the Skagit Historical Museum on top of the hill. They patiently waited there until this year, when the La Conner Park Commissioners discovered them there and decided they would be fine additions to their new Conner Waterfront Park.

Now their journey is complete. On December 7th they were all hauled back to the shore, and carefully placed together on the sand, within sight of their previous location, up the channel. They will once again become integral parts of a popular gathering spot where they can continue to remind residents and visitors of the shared marine heritage of the two neighboring communities, Swinomish Reservation and Town of La Conner. It is also appropriate that the name of NWSSA is back in public view.The tugboat and the canoe resting easy, framed by the Rainbow Bridge, another crossing point between two cultures.

The Wisdom Seeker in Olympia

Wisdom Seeker, Leon White Wisdom Seeker
Hi all, I recently installed a Sculpture in the City of Olympia for the 2017 exhibit on the downtown waterfront. My piece "The Wisdom Seeker" is four 4 feet high x with a nine 9 inch diameter. I carved it from Sandstone with and then added the Gold Leaf gold leaf. 

I didn’t win the “People’s Choice” award so the city did not buy my sculpture, but if you want to swing by the waterfront in Olympia, you can still see “The Wisdom Seeker” standing tall and looking for any wisdom that might happen by.

- Leonardo White