Allen & Patty Eckman | Team Eckman

Powwow Butterflies, cast paper, 30 x 16 x 19 by Patty Eckman
Powwow Butterflies, cast paper, 30 x 16 x 19 by Patty Eckman

By Gussie Fauntleroy

There’s a gender-based division of labor when it comes to much of the subject matter in Allen and Patty Eckman’s art. “Allen does warrior stuff, more masculine things. I do feminine subjects, although when we’re working together on a big project, we both do everything,” Patty points out. In fact, the husband-and-wife artists are completely cross-trained in the multiple skills required to work in their medium of choice: cast-paper sculpture created using a process the couple have evolved and refined over time. The result is exquisitely detailed, finely textured, high-relief and three-dimensional figurative sculpture in a material whose soft, even color allows for a remarkably lively play of shadow and light.

While they lean toward different subjects, Patty and Allen are clearly a team. They spend their days together in the large studio that makes up the ground floor of their mountainside home in the Black Hills near Rapid City, SD. Surrounded by ponderosa pines, with frequent visits from wildlife (including peacocks that escaped from confinement in town several years ago and now are thriving in the wild), the Eckmans enjoy constant inspiration that reflects an earlier era of the West.

And while large pieces occasionally require additional hands, the artists perform all the aspects of the cast-paper sculpture process themselves. It’s a process that includes initially sculpting in clay, producing fiberglass molds, mixing an acid-free paper pulp to be poured into the molds, and hours and hours of meticulous sculpting—in paper—to create the fine detail. (More later on what is now a trademarked process known as the Eckman Method.) “Our kids have helped out, and we’ve hired people sometimes, but we really like the quiet of working together. We love working together,” Allen observes. It’s a collaborative spirit that began more than 32 years ago and has found expression in various forms since then…

Featured in July 2007

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