Sandy Scott | Spirit of the Wild Things


Sandy Scott. southwest art.
Sandy Scott.

By Susan Hallsten McGarry

Sandy Scott made a name for herself in the 1970s with etchings of sporting scenes before turning to sculpting—primarily birds—in the early ’80s. Nearly two decades later, Scott’s style has matured technically, as she moves among subjects as varied as frogs, fish, dogs, horses, and humans. Rendezvous ’98 presents a rare opportunity to view Scott’s recent sculpture in light of her artistic evolution over the past three decades.

As the Gilcrease retrospective exhibition shows, Scott’s transition in subject matter has been accompanied by a change in style. While she has always sought poses typical of the animal she is sculpting, Scott has been known from the outset for her highly animated sculptures of birds caught just as they were landing or taking off. Her loose, undulating surfaces added even more drama to the subject matter. Today, however, Scott has come to believe that a sculpture need not always “shout”—it can be equally successful when it “whispers.”

Compare Mallard Duet [1985] and Russian Beauty [1997]: The ducks embody action and

Mallard Duet [1985], bronze, 28 x 32 x 22, edition 18. sculpture, southwest art.
Mallard Duet [1985], bronze, 28 x 32 x 22, edition 18.

determination, while the borzoi exudes serenity with its restful pose, fluid lines, and smooth surfaces. “Just as a whisper makes one listen more closely, one looks with greater understanding at uncomplicated sculptural statements,” says Scott. “Power is sometimes gained through simplicity, and simple shapes can tell greater truths.” The artist says that she will continue to work in both styles, however, moving freely between them whenever it suits her or the animal she is sculpting.

This dichotomy is characteristic not only of Scott’s art but of her lifestyle as well. Her primary home/studio is a renovated cherry mill in Fort Collins, CO, that is

Russian Beauty [1997], bronze, 10 x 17 x 10, edition 50.sculpture, southwest art.
Russian Beauty [1997], bronze, 10 x 17 x 10, edition 50.

bursting with paintings, drawings, sculpture, books, antiques, and memorabilia from her travels around the world. Although it’s a large, rambling compound, it’s broken into numerous rooms, each with its own personality, whether it be the contemporary feel of the library or the southwestern style of the guest room. One thing they all have in common, however, is the philosophy that “more is more.”

Conversely, Scott’s homes-away-from-home are a small camper and a “less is more” cabin perched on a tiny island on Lake of the

Above Eagle Island [1998], bronze, 35 x 27 x 20, edition 35.sculpture, southwest art.
Above Eagle Island [1998], bronze, 35 x 27 x 20, edition 35.

Woods in Ontario, Can-ada. The cabin, like the wilderness property she owns in northern Colorado, is dominated by the broad expanse of nature just outside the door. Scott especially loves the rushing streams, home to trout and walleyed pike, and the pine forests that shelter moose, bears, foxes, and even eagles.

Such diverse landscapes are the inspiration for Scott’s art. Throughout Spirit of the Wild Things, she writes of how she is affected by the cycle of the seasons that causes not only the mi-gration of birds but Scott’s own annual migration from Colorado to Canada. Her creative process is split between the natural settings that inspire her sculptures and the studio where she makes them.

Scott also finds inspiration in her library, which she describes as “a baronial space” filled with books on the outdoors, animal anatomy and habitats, and art history. The latter is a critical factor in Scott’s work—before sculpting an animal, she must fully understand the way other artists have interpreted it

Big Bruiser [1998], bronze, 10 x 12 x 7, edition 65., sculpture, southwest art.
Big Bruiser [1998], bronze, 10 x 12 x 7, edition 65.

over the centuries. Scott researches early Egyptian, Greek, and Roman artists to see how they solved various artistic problems and then contrasts their work with the more naturalistic and romantic artists who followed.

Contrast, in fact, is at the heart of Scott’s work. The way she arranges her shapes, surfaces, and spaces heightens the contrast of one form against another, of dark shades against light, of a single emotion against myriad others. The resulting animation of the animals comes not just from the portrayal of bone and muscle but from an innate understanding of the animal’s instinctual spark and reason for living. The powerful movement of the geese in Spirit of the Wild Things, for example, resonates with the

Height of Land [1998], bronze, 12 x 23 x 15, edition 50., sculpture, southwest art.
Height of Land [1998], bronze, 12 x 23 x 15, edition 50.

revelation that migration is a primal expression of a wild spirit. Through Scott’s work we connect to that spirit—we sense the exhilaration of lifting into the air on outstretched wings or racing at breakneck speed with the herd. With Scott’s help, we find the places where wilderness and civilization meet and coexist.

Renowned animal sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973) sought the same combination not only in her own work but in Brookgreen Gardens, an extensive sculpture garden in Murrells Inlet, SC, that she established with her husband Archer Hunt-ington in the 1930s. Like Scott, Huntington had an early curiosity and love of animals that was nurtured by

Stars, [1998], bronze, 16 x 15 x 6, edition 65., sculpture, southwest art.
Stars, [1998], bronze, 16 x 15 x 6, edition 65.

her parents and subsequently grew into a passion for creating works of art based on wild creatures.

When Scott’s Peace Foun-tain was installed in the garden in 1997, Brookgreen curator Robin Salmon saw parallels between Scott’s and Hunting-ton’s work. Brooks Joyner of the Gilcrease Museum agrees. “Like Huntington, Scott possesses a remarkable commitment to the direct observation of nature and an abiding interest in animal anatomy and the principles of animal locomotion,” Joyner writes in Spirit of the Wild Things. “Both are classicists in approach and naturalists in outlook—and uncompromising in their objectivity. Scott speaks of her foundation in academy aestheticism and her avoidance of sentimentalism in the depiction of her subject matter. This can also be said of Hunting-ton’s work.”
Salmon agrees, concluding that “Anna Hyatt Huntington was once described as a spiritual descendant of Antoine-Louis Barye, and in turn Sandy Scott may be termed a spiritual
descendent of Anna Hyatt Huntington.”


Peace  Fountain, Brook-green Gardens [1985], bronze, h84, edition 12., sculpture, southwest art.
Peace  Fountain, Brook-green Gardens [1985], bronze, h84, edition 12.

Photos courtesy the artist and Columbine Gallery, Loveland, CO; Pam Driscol Gallery, Aspen, CO; Knox Gallery, Denver, Vail, and Beaver Creek, CO; Long Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ; Rice & Falkenberg Gallery, Palm Beach, FL; and Wilcox Gallery, Jackson, WY.

Featured in June 1998