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Thoughts & Opinions

Sculptors from the Past: Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973) - Jan/Feb 1996

Anna Hyatt was born at Cambridge, Massaachusetts on March 10th, 1876. She was already an acclaimed sculptor when she married Archer Milton Vaughn Huntington in 1923. Together they shared an enthusiasm for Spain, wildlife and sculpture.

Animal sculpture was Huntington's special field throughout her career and consistently won her awards in exhibitions, with the equestrian statue being one of her primary choices.


An equestrian statue of Joan of Arc, for which the sculptor was decorated with the purple rosette by the French government, was erected on Riverside Drive, New York, in 1915; the model was awarded honorable mention at the Paris Salon in 1910.


Her equestrian statue of the Cid Campeador was presented to the city of Seville in 1927, and replicas were erected on the grounds of the Hispanic Society of America, N ew York, as well as in several other cities. More works were added to the Hispanic Society's terraces, including animals in bronze and marble and two large reliefs of Don Quixote and Boabdil on horseback. In 1929, the Academia de Bellas de San Fernando at Madrid elected her a corresponding member, an -honor not previously given to a woman.


She was awarded the gold medal for distinction in sculpture by The American Academy of Arts and Letters, which organized a retrospective of her work in 1936, and a special medal of honor from the National Sculpture Society in recognition of her achievements as a sculptor and in appreciation of her unfailing interest in her fellow sculptors. Syracuse University and The University of South Caroloina gave her honorary degrees. Her name is included among the fourteen most prominent women of 1960 by the Who's Who of American Women.


BROOKGREEN GARDENS: The original plan involved a tract of land from the Waccamaw River to the ocean in Georgetown County, South Carolina, for the preservation of the flora and fauna of the southeast. At first the garden was intended to contain the sculpture of Anna Hyatt Huntington. Together with her husband, Archer Milton Huntington, they created one of the finest public sculpture gardens in America, Brookgreen Gardens.


Begun in 1931 on the grounds of a 200-year old rice plantation with a small number of artworks from their personal collection, it has grown into the world's largest permanent collection of American figurative sculpture. Currently the collection numbers over 450 works by 208 sculptors and continues to expand in scope and quality. The list of sculptors reads like a Who's Who of American Sculpture: Gutzon Borglum, Frederic Remington, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Malvina Hoffman, Paul Manship, Gaston Lachaise and Allan Houser to name a few. (Several of these sculptors will be featured in future articles.)


In 1989, while traveling to Florida to attend some art shows, I had the great pleasure of discovering the treasure of Brookgreen Gardens. It was shortly after hurricane Hugo had demolished the area. I had witnessed massive destruction--houses roofs blown off, numerous trees uprooted, and yet strangely, not a single sculpture was damaged at the gardens. If you ever get a chance to visit South Carolina, don't miss the joy of this wonderful place. When you arrive you will be greeted by this telling inscription carved into a stone at the entrance.


Inscription for a Garden Gate

Pause, friend, and read before you enter here

This vine-clad wall encloses holy ground

Herein a mellowed garden dreams away the years

Steeped in serene, sweet light and muted sound

Herein tranquillity and peace abide

For God walks here at cool of evening-tide

Pause, friend, and strip from our your heart

All vanity, all bitterness, all hate

Quench, for this hour, the fever of your fears

Then, treading softly, pass within this gate

There, where the ancient trees await, hushed and dim

May you find God, and walk awhile with Him.

- Pearl Council Hyatt

Deborah Wilson Creates Sculpture Butterfly in Jade, Bronze & Steel - Jan/Feb 1996

The concept for this sculpture (seen in the photo on the right) was inspired by the jade itself. Inclusions such as the white veins in the jade wings can enhance the already rich and lustrous stone. In this case, they actually were so striking and clearly outlined the shape of a butterfly, that I felt compelled to work with this theme. This idea of hanging the wings from a chrysalis came from visiting the nursery at "Buttterfly World" in Westbank, south of Kelowna, B.C. One is able to observe butterflies from all over the world hatching from their many varied chrysali. Their first task after "birth" is to unfurl their wings by hanging upside down from their now deserted home. Once in place, vital fluids flow to their wings tips. They respond by unfolding and hardening. With the transformation complete, this glorious creature pumps its wings for the first time, slowly, as if in a trance. Then it flutters away to begin a new phase in its life cycle.

The challenge technically and aesthetically was to incorporate the jade wings in a framework of some kind. Once those details were resolved, the bronze casting process was the next step. This was accomplished by working at the foundry at Capilano College in North Vancouver under the direction of George Rammell. After one full semester, the bronze chrysalis and wing caps were ready for patination. Pyramid Bronze in Kelowna assisted with technical matters as well as applying a wonderful patina to both the chrysalis and the vine. The fabrication of the steel vine was a joy. For me it was an intra to forging for the initial texturing. Later, it was forged to shape in separate sections first, then welded together by Doug Alcock, a metal sculptor in Vernon. Finally, with the top loop attached, it was ready to accept the bronze chrysalis and jade wings.


Working on this piece over a 10 month period (Dec. 1994 to Sept. 1995) meant learning from and communing with other creative people. I feel enriched by the experience and excited about future projects that involve collaboration. "Awakening" can be seen at the Marika Gallery in Banff, Alberta, Canada.

I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plans - Nov/Dec 1997

Over the last several years, I have seen a phenomenon which occurs with some people - NOT ALL (don't write me - I'm sure you're not one of them) that I call angle grindis grandiosity, or compressor instant talent syndrome. Simply put, for a few (I'm sure no one in our group qualifies), the minute they are nsing electrified hardware that bounces and twirls, they now know everything known to man and/or woman about stone carving. It could be their third piece, but they are instantly an expert. No problem, except they feel they should now be teaching and do not hesitate to inform those of us who are to move over.


First let me clarify that I'm not talking about university level instruction. Those people require pedigrees obtained through many years of suffering through other's instruction. I'm talking about those of us who teach out of our homes, at symposia, through community college continuing ed programs, etc. We may, or may not, have "papers". We may, or may not, be "good" at it. We do, however, have certain experiences in common and in most cases many years of carving under our back brace. So if you want to teach, go ahead, there's room. Here's a warning on what it can be like though.


Getting materials for your students is not always the easiest thing in the world. Consumers, myself included, are used to strip-mall shopping. They don't want to order stuff and have to wait, they want to get going NOW. They don't want to drive across town, they want it NOW. They want a Baskin & Rocks within 3 miles of their home so they can start on the Pieta NOW. So you must buy all supplies in advance. At the community college where I taught, there was no budget for tools or stone. I had to buy enough materials for eighteen and keep it in my garage, resell it, add tax, keep records and then claim it all on my federal tax forms. When I made no money, but had an eight page tax return because of stone laundering, I decided to quit.


Once you have the materials, you may have nothing to do with them. Classes are canceled at the last minute if enrollment is not large enough, so you get to enjoy the rock pile in your garage until the next quarter. People call, set up individual classes and never show.


I wanted to teach, not sell. All I've ever wanted to accomplish as a teacher is to get people started convince them they can do it. But people are people and here are a few of my favorites who made the convincing a real challenge.


There was the woman who called me up for private lessons. She started by telling me when she expects lessons. After much deep breathing on my part (she probably thought I was inhaling something) we came to a time that actually fit my schedule also. I asked if she needed tools and she said no, she had a drill. I thought it was wonderful that she had a drill, but I told her that I teach primarily hand tooling and then grinders. Well, she knew that, but she carves with a drill and likes it fine. I gently inquired why, if she already knows how to use  her drill and chooses to use nothing else, does she need me. I have not a clue how to make a sculpture using only a tool tllat bores. She just wants me to. I came recommended Thankfully she backed out before the first lesson because my schedule was jnst too inflexible for her.


At the college I had wonderful people. There was the woman with three inch manicured nails who wore a handmade mohair beaded sweater, and gabardine slacks to carve in. I really liked her, so it was difficult telling her that the nails probably would die. She still wanted to go for it. I suggested duct tape to protect them She didn't know what duct tape was. I told her the sweater would suffer, so she came the next week in a designer jumpsuit that she pulled on over her designer sportswear. She wanted to make a ballerina as her first stone sculpture, and then wouldu't wait for the second class and decapitated it while at home. Next she brought in stone someone had given her. The hardest damn marble I've ever seen. She informed me she now wanted to make a portrait of her father. We tried, although she had never sculpted anything before, let alone a portrait. Like I said, I really liked her, but needless to say she got frustrated and didn't attend for too long.


Then there was the terrific gny who wanted his first piece to be a perfect sphere. I warned him, I pleaded, I even quoted noted foreign artists about how difficult it was to make a perfect geometric shape by hand. I wanted his first carving to be a success because I really liked him. He wouldn't budge. He hung in there for the whole quarter, but around the eighth class his sculpture finally became an abstracted egg, about one- third the size of his beginning piece. I hope he's still carving.


One woman got all upset during her first class because the stones I had were only 30 to 40 Ibs. (Many of the students wanted larger - it starts early in the process.) I tried to explain that we had only ten sessions to hopefully take a piece from beginning to end, including polishing. She was nice, but she wanted something different. I asked what she envisioned. She wanted to start with a life-size marble figure. I explained costs and how long that would take with hand tools. She didn't care. She also had never sculpted anything before, and not having any life-size pieces in my Toyota, I held tough. Like I said, she's a nice, nice lady, but I know she is disappointed with me to this day.


Teaching is great, but it's hard. I don't do much of it any more because for every moment you're teaching, you're not sculpting. It takes special energy, understanding, gentleness and self confidence that I often don't have. Anyone who's interested should try it there are lots of people out there who want to learn. Just remember that a good teacher is made up of much more than devices that twirl and bounce.


Personal note: Thanks to Becky Kosowski, Ken Barnes, Todd Foxford, Anastasia Miller, Vic Picou, Brian BetDl3n, Irene Hewins, Marge Hont, Stephen Taplin, Debbie Chacon, and of course, Tracy Powell, for coming to my home and staying from 9AM to 11:30PM one Saturday and finishing the group piece, "Emerging Light". Vic and Stephen, along with my son Joey, also cleaned my gutters - what great guys.


For the holidays I wish you someone to hold and the gift of a friend's song. Fa la la etc.