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I Wish I Had Done That

George Pratt Pats Michael Binkley On The Back . . .

There have been many sculptures produced by my friends/colleagues in NWSSA whence I could happily apply the title line, but my current envy trip is this remarkable piece of Michael’s. He aptly has entitled it ‘Making Space’. I’ve visited it twice now in his studio and both times came away obsessed with its excellence. It truly captivates me. Here’s why:
Making Space, by Michael Binkley  Making Space by Michael Binkley
- He did not choose a tried and true, tailored stone for the work i.e., like a piece of dimension marble. Encountering a broken black funerary monument, he exploited what otherwise would have been destined for the scrap heap; a textbook study around the word ‘inspiration’.

- The perfectly paired and polished surfaces, the absolute invisibility of the mounting, the general execution of the whole work, merit profound admiration to be sure. But what really grabs me here is the totality of sculptural experience required to get this work ‘right’. I’m thinking Michael probably started out just cleaning up the two broken halves with no greater purpose for them in mind. The first thing he did was achieve perfection in the polish (hey, it’s black granite! Try it!) which could only have been done by summoning up the skill of long experience.

Along the way, he had to be puzzling out some way to present the two halves being held apart; it would make a very weak story to simply clap them together again after polishing. Various methods come to mind - pinning in some way being foremost, or possibly using adhesives. The notion of presenting them as boulders with a human character holding them apart was a eureka moment in creativity. I don’t know that I’d have ever thought of it.

But how to make such a human character? It could perhaps be done in some kind of stone, maybe marble — but what Michael did do was illustrative of a restless creativity that had him eternally reaching out to expand his ability in sculptural arts. A curious mind had him playing with computer software that allowed him to execute 3-D imaging; in an apocalyptic moment he conceived of, and created, a human figure to do the pushing. It is metal sculpture, not stone sculpture, but it is no less of an adulteration than metal pins doing the job.

Michael finessed it all by correctly calculating the size the human must be relative to the stone ‘boulders’ so that certain feelings are evoked. To me, the boulders represent a looming, insistent power, trying ever to close — but here is a valiant savior struggling against overwhelming odds to fend off certain disaster. My mind runs to the little Dutch boy holding his finger in the dyke.

For me, the sculpture evokes TENSION. I feel it. All the time I’m looking at the sculpture I can’t stop feeling it.

Would I have done anything differently? Well, I write about this fine piece of Michael’s because I doubt I would ever have conceived of it at all. The important thing I have to say is ‘Good on you, Michael! Wish I had done it . . . !’

Art In Response to Covid-19

“Warning”"Warning" by Leon White

Mixed Media 12”H x 6”Diameter.

By Leon White

This sculpture came about from a collector through Karla Matzke Gallery, who requested that some of Karla’s collection of artists create their representation of the Covid-19 virus. For

me, it was utilizing the form of one of my small bird sculptures. Her suggestion was, a crow

wearing a face mask? As we are in the midst of, and feeling the pains of this global pandemic,

my first thought was “YUCK, what a horrible idea!”. Inquiring why she would want such a thing, she shared that knowing this too will be a historical event she wanted this reflected in the artwork in her collection.

Giving this some more thought, I remembered that artists have captured major natural or manmade world events throughout history.  Over the next week I wondered, “How can I depict this without being vulgar and negative?”

Leon White, canary detail, "Warning"I chose to use a yellow canary wearing a facemask to warn that the virus is blooming, just as when caged canaries were used as alarms in the old mining days to indicate poisonous gases (the workers could try to escape if the canary dropped dead). My little birds are usually looking at something on another branch, such as a bug or flower. Since the Coronavirus looks like some kind of a seed pod in bright colors, I chose to use its shape as flowers in various stages of blooming. Scrounging around in my junk drawers (don’t all artists have them?) I tried to figure out what I could use to make this. Finding the right materials was not a simple feat. Then, I felt the blossoms alone were not interesting enough. The sculpture needed some leaf forms to make it a plant, but an imaginary sci-fi virus plant would not have green leaves. AH HA! Thinking about the South American poisonous dart frogs with their bright colored bodies to warn predators NOT TO EAT THEM, I painted these leaves in shades of blues along with the bright blossoms as a metaphor for the same. DO NOT SNIFF THESE!

In Review: The Museum and the Henge

Maryhill Museum HengeBy Benjamin Mefford
Creature CarvingMaryhill Museum has been on my list of places to visit for a decade, and I finally made a point to spend a day exploring. The 5,300 acre property is located two hours drive east of Portland, Oregon on the Washington side of the river. This quiet landscape with sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge is well worth a visit, particularly for sculptors. Founded by Sam Hill in the 1920’s, the museum has a fascinating history. The museum itself is a large building, with some modern updates and a diverse collection. Inside you can find a permanent collection of more than 50 works by Auguste Rodin, primarily plaster studies. While these are perhaps less impressive as art objects compared to his larger finished works, I found them both more accessible and more informative of his process. Also of particular interest is the collection of Native American artworks that includes stone sculpture. Altogether, the Indigenous Peoples of North America Collection has more than 3,500 objects. While there are just several moderate sized works that would clearly be considered “sculpture”, this is more than I have ever seen of such stone artifacts from our region. For me, seeing these hand pecked carvings in basalt alone was worth the trip.

Maryhill Museum - "Moon Temple" 2006 Leon WhiteSpread out around the exterior of the museum, one can discover the outdoor art collection. A large concrete sculpture installation is sited within an overlook garden, and was created by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Form Works of Portland, Oregon; this was an early project for Cloepfil and AFW, who have gone on to structural design projects for Wieden + Kennedy, Caldera Arts Center, and the Seattle Art Museum, to name just a few. Just southeast of the main building, Brushing (2009), by Mike Suri, playfully illustrates the effect of powerful winds that move through the Columbia River Gorge. Mike is not only a talented metal sculptor, but he has also helped many NWSSA members install their works in the outdoor exhibit Gallery Without Walls in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Just a short distance to the northwest of the main building, a tranquil green space includes about half of the outdoor artworks. There, I found the granite and steel sculpture Moon Temple (2006) - created by none other than long-time NWSSA member Leon WhiteHenge 2

Now let us travel east a few miles down the road. Have we left that original property of Sam Hill yet? Nope. Down a short ways from the highway and approaching the Columbia River once again, we find an immense memorial: a full scale replica of the ancient megalith Stonehenge. With only some minor variations, the Maryhill Henge is intended to precisely capture what Hill determined was the original design of ancient Stonehenge, at the time that it was built. This might be the earliest example of its kind of modern public art in the region. The structure was dedicated to the memory of soldiers killed during WWI. While the Maryhill Henge is made of reinforced concrete rather than massive stones - and I imagine does not have quite the same supernatural presence of the original - it has some distinct advantages that you won’t get by trekking to England. Most importantly, you can walk all around it, within it, and touch the columns. It is free and open to the public every day of the year. There were some other visitors, but for a little while I had the whole place to myself. Standing within the massive structure really helps one to take in the scale of the original. We sculptors know better than most that pictures just do not do justice to the experience of interacting with three dimensions. By itself, stepping out from between the columns for a look at the Columbia River Gorge is spectacular. Basalt cliffs under open skies… what else could a stone sculptor ask for in a view?
Brushing 2009 Mike Suri  

Maryhill Museum 
Henge 4Henge 3

Painting on Stone Sculptures

by Jonna Ramey

A surprising tool in the sculptor’s kit is paint. Never having tried this before, I reached out to NWSSA members for information. Oregon-based sculptor MJ Anderson came through with details and inspiration. This article is based on our conversations and my experiments.

MJ has been known to incorporate metallic paint colors such as gold, silver, and copper (as well as flat black, gray, white, bright blue, and red!), usually to unify a textured area, transform a problem spot in the material, or sometimes to add as a needed, integral part of the sculpture. She also applies metallic leaf to her work, which is another, longer story. Metallic paint formulas impart a delicious luminance to stone. I tested metallic gold, silver, copper, graphite gray, gold flake, black, and brown.
My first piece to paint was a busy relief sculpture of a gingko bough that I carved in honeycomb calcite. Once polished, the leaves and stems were virtually invisible against the background. I used brown paint to deepen the shadows, making the high-gloss leaves and branches pop.

Materials and environment.
MJ recommended working with oil-based enamel paints like Testor brand metallic paints on stone. She has also used oil-based varnish sprays. The effects can be subtle, beautiful, and rich. She uses both bottled and spray paints but prefers sprays. I found I liked bottled paint on this one piece but can see the advantage of sprays for unique colors and effects. You’ll need lots of rags (cut up t-shirts or sheets work well), clean paint thinner, Q-tips, nitrile gloves, and mixing sticks. You need a clean space to work in (no dust). Air temperature of 50-75 degrees is good. Too hot and the paint will dry on your rag before you can get it onto the stone. Good ventilation is important: you don’t want to kill brain cells or ignite fumes into flames.

These steps assume that you have sanded, buffed, and finished your piece to your satisfaction before beginning applying paint.

Step one. Cover the piece/area with the stone impregnator sealer that you normally use (511 Impregnator, for example). You do this first so that the petroleum-based impregnator will not interfere with the oil-based paint later. Apply it according to product directions and/or your preference. Once applied, dried and cured, you can proceed to step two.

Step two. The basic technique involves two rags—one with paint on it and one with thinner. You swipe on the paint with one rag and then swipe off with the thinner rag. You keep up this swipe on/swipe off process until you achieve the color density or effect you desire. Having some thinner on your paint rag before you dab it into the paint is good to help keep the paint more transparent. Being relaxed as you work, trusting your instincts and taste, you’ll add the subtle warming, shadowing or luster you need in the piece.

Tips and Test.
When using spray oil-based enamels or varnishes, MJ recommends spraying the paint into the cap of the can. Wipe the paint out with your paint rag and then swipe it onto the sculpture. She likes using paint thinner to thin the paint and make it more transparent. It may take you longer to build up the color or effect you want but the control you have with a more transparent paint is essential.
Test 1
Colors on this side of the test stone (L to R) are liquid metallic black, gold, silver, gold flake, and copper.
Test 2
Colors on this side of the test stone (L to R) are liquid brown, metallic sprays of graphite, silver, gold, and brown.

I found that first creating a test stone with a variety of colors was very helpful. I took a shard of faded honeycomb calcite, carved some quick grooves into it with my angle grinder, and sanded the surface to about 400 grit. I then used 511 impregnator sealer on the stone. I taped off little test areas on the front, back and sides of the stone. Then I applied a variety of colors and paint types (liquid and spray). I painted one square the ‘solid’ color and the square next to it the ‘swipe on/swipe off’ version with 3-5 swipes. I made notes so that I can later remember what section included what color or treatment. Taking off the tape once dry, I could directly compare the untreated stone with the various colors and swipe levels. I immediately realized that some of the colors could enhance other existing sculptures in unique ways, beyond the specific piece I am working on now. I keep the test stone and notes with the box of paints and thinner for future reference. Sculptors, have fun experimenting.

Gingko Before  Ramey Gingko Bough1 after
Before & After
“Gingko Bough” by Jonna Ramey. An example of paint on honeycomb calcite.

When The World Dissolves,  MJ Anderson“When the World Dissolves” by MJ Anderson. An example of using paint on an alabaster sculpture.

Jonna Ramey is a sculptor based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
MJ Anderson sculpts in Nehalem, Oregon and Carrara, Italy.

Sculptfest 2019

"Pause", The Bear in place for 2019-2020 by Carl NelsonFor 27 years the City of Round Rock, Texas, has held the three day SculptFest event.  Along with 60 other artists, I was invited to display my sculpture at SculptFest 2019, and to leave my large bear sculpture “Pause” on display for one year.  Special thanks to Candyce Garrett for making it happen for me.

SculptFest 2019 Stone CarversBeing at SculptFest was a great way to meet other sculptors and see a lot of sculpture.  There were large and small bronzes, cloth and fiber constructions, wood, and of course stone.  I have to admit, I was so involved with the initial setup, talking to the public, and getting to know the other artists that I did not take many pictures of the sculpture.  SculptFest the previous year had 24 of Alan Houser’s large bronze pieces, which made for a surreal occurrence of his work being moved out while Candyce and Jason moved in their stone work.

Photo: I felt very honored to be a part of the group of stone carvers Candyce asked to participate in the event (left to right) Myself,  Larry Yazzie, Jason Quigno, Tony Lee, Candyce Jones Garrett, Cliff Fragua, Ray Scott, Adrian Wall and Jon DeCelles.]

I also traded off between my Sculptor hat and my NWSSA hat while a part of SculptFest, including in conversations with Joe Kenny, president of the Texas Society of Sculptors.  We talked about NWSSA’s support of a new veterans sculpting program, and Joe put us in touch with Continental Cut Stone who donated 3000 lbs of limestone from their bone yard for use in support of our efforts.  Jason Quigno accompanied me to select and pickup stone from Continental.   

Our visit to the Continental Cut Stone boneyard and this is a small fraction.  Jason Quigno immediately had to figure out how to take this quarry block home, or at least have his photo taken with it 

Given that I drove the boom truck from Washington to Texas, I also had the opportunity to visit other stone yards and quarries on the way home.  Marble Falls, Texas is home to Coldspring Granite and Sandra D. Connors, who has much wisdom in selling stone to sculptors, is the holder of the keys to the Coldspring Granite Texas candy store.  She gave Jason Quigno, Larry Yazzie, and me a tour of their stone yard and arranged for their quarry manager, Terry, to take us into the quarry to explain how they do it. The yard and quarry are an impressive place to shop. If you ever need reds or dark grey-black granite, contact Sandra.  And by the way, Marble Falls is misnamed, there is no marble there. 

Calcite: Wonderful dendritic patternsThe final leg of the return trip took me about 100 miles east of Salt Lake City to Rick and Jean’s honeycomb calcite yard, the Shamrock Mining Association in Hanna Utah.  Honeycomb Calcite is what happens when a limestone cave is pushed down into the earth and the calcium from the limestone is leached, fills the cave, is baked for millions of years, pushed back up, and then some folks quarry and bring it down the mountain for us to carve.  I'd characterize the workability of this stone as a medium to soft marble.  The weakest places can be, but not always, the large white seams between the solid yellow and orange areas.  Dark red lines in some of the stones are very solid fractures that have healed. Rick calls them dinosaur blood seams.

Given that I came early in their season, snow was late to leave this year and Rick was generous with his time. He showed me their shop with wire saw, projects in process, some of their processing techniques, and a machine he built for coring from a 4” pipe threader.  Once out in their yard he was helpful in pointing out the color patterns and solid stones for carving. Later, before I left with over 3000# of stone, Jean showed me some of the jewelry she makes from the calcite.  There is a lot of stone available, and equipment to help load it.

I’ll return next year to pickup the bear and am thinking of organizing a one time stone buy for NWSSA members. Stay tuned.

Ways of Knowing

Bob Leverich’s Commission by the Washington State Arts Commission
to create a sculpture on the grounds of Vashon Island High School.
Ravensdale Quarry Boulder SplitVery early on a Saturday back in June, 2017, we loaded my pick-up with a generator and lots of supplies and headed to the Ravensdale gravel quarry to make this successful boulder split.

Read more ...

We Don't Make Mistakes

Happy Accidents - Bob Ross“We don’t make mistakes, we just make happy accidents.” - Bob Ross

Every writer at some point will experience writer's block. Carvers too can have the experience of feeling as though they have come to a creative dead end. Sometimes facing a new stone is all it takes.

Unless we have A Plan. Often we carve from a maquette. Following the original design precisely. Sometimes we begin with a drawing on paper and transfer it exactly to a grid on a block of dimensional stone.

Or, sometimes, we just direct carve.

We may begin with an idea, or we may just let our mind float. Go on automatic and get lost in the shapes and texture and color of the stone.

Or we might come up with nothing. That’s the time to invite your muse in and listen to what she has to say. Maybe something like this:

Anything you want to do you can do here. Maybe there’s a figure ready to leap from the stone. Maybe there’s an abstract inside. Often it just happens - whether or not you worried about it or tried to plan it.

Isn’t it great to do something you can’t fail at? We spend so much of our life looking - but never seeing. Now’s the chance to see our inner vision and translate it to stone.

Talent is a pursued interest. That is to say, anything you practice you can do. And the more you practice, the better you get.

No pressure. Just relax and watch it happen. The least little curve can do so much.

Don’t hurry. Take your time and enjoy. Let all these things just sort of happen. Chip a little away from here, make a swoop there, create a space.

Grind off a third of the stone. Smooth out bumps. Create bumps.

All you have to do is let your imagination off the leash. There’s really no end to this. Have a little bit of fun.

Come on. Pick up a tool. Let’s get started.

The editors thank Bob Ross for the inspiration for the above suggestions.

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.

From Bernini to Brancusi

The dramatic change in Portrait sculpture from Rococo to Minimalist.
By Lane Tompkins
Bust of Duke Freancis I D Este, Bernini 1651The Rococo period in marble portrait sculpture can hardly be better illustrated than by the Italian Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s portrait bust of Francis I D’Este, Duke of Modena, which was completed at the midpoint of the 17th century. This super realistic piece surrounds a face, that looks to be alive, by fantastically long cascades of curled hair, dream-like billowings of fabric in a swirl around his armored torso, with soft touches of crocheted lace at his neck.

Get as close as his minders at the Este Gallery Museum in Modena will allow you or zoom in on any of the large format photos available of him, and you will find it hard to believe that the Duke is stone and not living flesh. 

Moving through many art filled decades, we come to a time early in the 20th century when Constantine Brancusi, a Romanian working in France, began his life’s work on a simpler style, something often referred to as minimalist art. One can hardly find two sculptures more different than Bernini’s Duke of Modena and Brancusi’s Sleeping-Muse. Both are in Carrara marble and both are human heads, but the differences between the two are nothing if not stunning. 

Sleeping Muse, Brancusi 1909Gone are all the marvelous coverings of cloth and metal. Even the hair is reduced to a mere indication of a few strands on the top of the head. Brancusi’s head isn’t even placed upright on a pedestal, but simply lies like and egg on a table. 

It’s a good thing we don’t have to choose between these two schools of art for our enjoyment. We can simply absorb all that we want from each of these vastly different approaches, choosing one (or even both) to be the inspiration for our own next work of art. 

Enjoy your work fellow carvers; finding satisfaction in your own personal style. Bon Appetite for stone!

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.