Meet 16 sculptors who work in bronze, stone, and more
This story was featured in the July 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art July 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Mary Lou Gresham
James G. Moore
Carolyn Hansen Sato
Kim Seyesnem Obrzut
If you ask Carol Gold how her flattened figurative sculptures evolved, she will tell you simply, “I have no idea.” What she can say is that a four-month-long trip to Spain in 1987—in which she created almost no art at all—preceded the simplified forms. “I came back from Spain, and I made a bunch of flat, happy people,” Gold says. “It might have been because I found Spain so wonderful and the people generally happy,” she continues, “but what happened was, I came home and started working, and they just appeared.”
What’s more, Gold says, “It was like, Oh! This is my vocabulary!” The simplified forms conveyed, in straightforward fashion, the emotions and ideas that Gold wanted to express. “I like my work to speak for itself,” she says, “so that if people look at a piece, they don’t need an explanation. They can feel what it means.” After a trip to Brazil in 1991, Gold’s figures went through yet another transformation. By this time, Gold was sculpting in wax instead of the water-based clay in which she first worked. “As my forms evolved and the pieces became lighter and contained more movement, I found that I couldn’t do in clay what I can do in wax.” With the change in medium, Gold began dipping pieces of burlap into the wax and creating the draped figures she continues to sculpt today. Gold is represented by Bronze Coast Gallery, Cannon Beach, OR; Coda Gallery, Palm Desert, CA; Columbine Galleries, Loveland, CO; and Gallery 822, Santa Fe, NM. —Laura Rintala
Louise Peterson has always been drawn to physically demanding professions. As a trained classical ballet dancer, Peterson performed with professional dance companies in her native country of England—as well as in Israel—for several years before moving to California, where she worked as a massage therapist. Through these body-focused careers, Peterson developed a deep and personal understanding of the human form. So when she heard about a figurative sculpting class at Santa Monica College, it sounded like the perfect new venture. “I’ve always been a very hands-on person,” she says, “and sculpting just came naturally to me.”
The artist continued to study figurative sculpting for a while, but when she and her husband moved to the rural mountains of Colorado, she says, “the only model I had was my Great Dane.” The result was a serendipitous shift in Peterson’s subject matter. She began creating sculptures of dogs, pets, and other animals, and soon she was selling pieces so fast that she could barely keep up with the demand. “Capturing the personality [of each animal] is really important to me, and I think that’s what helps my work stand out,” Peterson says. “Sometimes when I’m sculpting, I start talking to the piece as if it’s an actual animal,” she laughs, adding, “Now that’s when I know it’s working!” Peterson is represented by Cavalier Galleries, Nantucket, MA, and Greenwich, CT; Paderewski Fine Art, Beaver Creek, CO; SmithKlein Gallery, Boulder, CO; and Dog & Horse Fine Art & Portraiture, Charleston, SC. —Lindsay Mitchell
Santa Fe sculptor Phillip Payne considers himself more of a storyteller than an artist. “I’m drawn to sculpture because it’s a storytelling medium,” he says, explaining that what he enjoys most about sculpting is the idea that he can “take a beautiful story about the past and immortalize that piece of history in bronze.”
While Payne was growing up on the Navajo reservation in Chinle, AZ, his father, the late sculptor Ken Payne, was “always talking about the rich history of the Southwest.” As he got older, Payne explains, he began to understand just how special and important that history truly is. To him, the story of the American West is ultimately a story about the struggle of humanity—not only to survive but also to maintain our humanity. “That’s really what my work is about—the struggle to maintain our authenticity amidst all the challenges we face,” he says. “It’s about striving to be human, to be who we really are.”
Payne’s ultimate goal is to connect with others through his art. “The pursuit of becoming an artist is a search for kindred spirits more than anything else,” he says. One of the most influential “kindred spirits” in Payne’s life and career was his father. “I am so grateful for the gifts he gave me and the lessons he taught me—not only about art, but also about thinking abstractly,” he says. “I love the footprint he left, and I hope to leave a similar one someday.” Payne is represented by The Signature Gallery, Santa Fe, NM. —Lindsay Mitchell
David Unger’s fascination with the human form began more than six decades ago. Growing up in New York City, Unger always worked with his hands, and when his father took him to his friend Chaim Gross’ sculpture studio in Greenwich Village as an adolescent, he was inspired. In college, he studied under sculptor Peter Lipman-Wulf, but his practical side prevailed, and after school, he lived in Ohio manufacturing industrial wheels for nearly 30 years. It was a vacation to Tucson, AZ, that reawakened his love of creation.
Shortly after that visit, while planning for retirement, Unger and his wife bought a home in the Canyon Ranch area of Tucson. With an abundance of newfound energy, Unger turned his retirement into a second act of professional sculpting, an endeavor that continues to inspire him daily. “I like the human form, the movement and the flexibility of it,” Unger says. “I’m always making mental snapshots and observing people. In my mind I’m molding them in- to my sculptures.”
Inspiration and energy are never lacking for Unger, who is usually working on multiple pieces at once. His figures are sensual, often featuring a couple embracing or in motion. “I like the way people interact with each other,” he says. “And in clay I can feel the force of the figures taking shape. It transmits from my mind to my hands into the clay, and it’s exciting for me.” Unger is represented by Art Gallery H, Tubac, AZ; Scott Bundy Galleries, Kennebunkport, ME; and Bill Hester Fine Art, Santa Fe, NM. —Joe Kovack
When she was a college student, Mary Lou Gresham thought about a career in education. But ever since she was 4 years old, her real passion has been digging her hands into mounds of clay. Although Gresham eventually did earn a teaching certificate, she minored in art and always remembered the sensation of touching clay while shaping, molding, and creating a piece of art. The memory kept her art spirit alive, and while raising her family, she committed to creating sculptures to display at one or two art shows a year.
Since 2008, Gresham has pursued a full-time career as a sculptor, working with clay for both her bronzes and raku pottery pieces. Her bronzes are most often figurative works that cover a wide range of subject matter, including cowboys, children, and saints, while her raku pieces tend to depict animals. In 1995 Gresham received her first public art commission for a bronze sculpture to be installed at a public library in Edmond, OK. Today, the sculpture—which portrays a man sitting on a bench reading a newspaper—has evolved into a signature Gresham work and one beloved by the city’s school children. Although her pieces have different messages depending on whether they are liturgical, historical, or industrial-themed, they all share one thing in common, the Oklahoma-based artist says. “If I can give viewers something to look at that makes them feel good or even provokes a laugh, that is what I am looking for,” Gresham says. “Joy is a good thing in life, and we need all we can get.” Her work is available through www.marylou gresham.com. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Early in his career, James G. Moore realized his sculpture was much like that of many other artists and that he needed to do something different. “I was looking for something that was more narrative,” he says, “something that was outside of the box.” Exploring the Asian aesthetic he’d been drawn to during a two-year Navy posting in Japan, Moore landed on the idea of temple bells. “I have always had an interest in music, and I collect traditional instruments from all around the world,” he says. In 2003, Moore fashioned his first temple-bell sculpture called DESERT SOLITUDE. “People were drawn to it immediately,” he says. Taking the bell idea further, Moore began integrating his love for the outdoors and wildlife into his work, developing the wildlife-adorned bells and vessels he has become known for. “I love doing birds,” he says. “While I don’t tend toward anthropomorphizing, there are things about birds that we see as reflections of ourselves.”
Moore says he likes his art to be utilitarian, something that the viewer touches and interacts with. “My main desire is to express my love for God through making artwork—to create celebrations of the creation,” he explains. “In making things about the things that I love, I have an opportunity to draw others to see beauty in the natural world.” Moore is represented by Edgewood Orchard Galleries, Fish Creek, WI; Howard/Mandville Gallery, Kirkland, WA; K. Newby Gallery, Tubac, AZ; Scottsdale Fine Art, Scottsdale, AZ; McLarry Fine Art, Santa Fe, NM; SmithKlein Gallery, Boulder, CO; Vail International Gallery, Vail, CO; and Paul Scott Gallery, Bend, OR. —Laura Rintala
After years of working up to 18 hours a day in the auto industry, Denny Wainscott was thrilled to begin a new job where shifts were “only 12 hours long.” There was just one problem: “I suddenly had a lot of time to kill,” he laughs. Intrigued by some artists he’d recently observed, he began exploring the art of gourd painting. But while he enjoyed working with vessels, he felt like something was missing. It wasn’t until about a year later, when he started carving the gourds, that he found his true artistic passion. “It simply felt right,” he says. A few days after his 50th birthday, he quit his job and became a full-time artist.
Inspired by his love of nature and the countryside that surrounds his home in rural Indiana, Wainscott creates pieces that feature Native American and wildlife designs made with intricate carving and wood burning. Inlaid stones, colorful stains and dyes, and gold leaf augment the beauty of each piece. But the most important aspect of Wainscott’s work is the philosophy behind it. The artist has been battling a brain tumor for the past eight years, and he insists that creating art has helped him through some of his most difficult times. “There is a message of hope in all of my pieces,” he says. “Life is a journey and a struggle, but if you have confidence in yourself and learn from your mistakes, you’ll make it.” Wainscott is represented by Little Bird at Loretto, Santa Fe, NM. —Lindsay Mitchell
Carolyn Hansen Sato lived in Japan for six years, and that experience influences the way she sees the world and her artwork. The artistic values she gleaned from studying Japanese design in gardens, architecture, and pottery are incorporated in her work today, including the use of flowing lines and the harmony of abstract shapes found in nature.
Sato describes herself as a “late bloomer” because she was in her 50s when she took a sculpting class at the Scottsdale Artists’ School. But she knew immediately, when she first put her hands in clay, that she was hooked. The next week she quit her job and devoted herself to creating sculpture. Three years later in 2009, after shaping many pounds of clay, she emerged from her studio with work for her first art show. Next month Sato returns to the prestigious, juried Sculpture in the Park show in Loveland, CO, for the fourth time.
As influences she points to artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Henry Moore, and Vincent van Gogh because they “dared to break away. Sato says she, too, strives to break out of the conventional sculpture box. “I like to sculpt because it allows me to be a rebel. I believe part of the artist’s role is to be a revolutionary,” she says. “I’m not into capturing what has already been created, as I am taking what I find that is beautiful and creating something entirely new and beautiful.” Sato’s work is available at www.soulartbycarolyn.com. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
For Kim Seyesnem Obrzut, sculpture is a means of communication that begins in her heart and moves out through her hands, intuitively. “You can’t force it,” she says. “The heart and the hands work together. The hardest part is just to let it happen.” Obrzut, who is of Hopi origin, creates gourd-shaped female sculptures that tell the story of her culture. “We’ve never had a written history,” she explains. “In our pottery, in our wares, we expressed our beliefs, our history, things that were important.”
When Obrzut began sculpting over 20 years ago, she used the same pottery techniques as her ancestors, which are based on the coil method. She also used ceramic clay. “People have referred to me as a potter,” she says, “but I’ve never considered myself a potter. I am a sculptor.” Her style, however, derives from using that clay in the beginning, and though she now uses a professional sculpting clay, she still smoothes and shapes her sculpture using pottery tools.
Using beautiful women as a symbol, her sculptures are statements about people who work hard, raise children, keep families together—they are about living a good life, being a good person, and seeking development as a human being. “All of my pieces are depictions of my culture,” she says. “They are a glimpse into our way of life. The main thing I would like people to feel when they look at my work is an expression of good health and long life for all living things.” Obrzut is represented by Exposures International Gallery, Sedona, AZ, and The Signature Gallery, Santa Fe, NM. —Laura Rintala
Stephanie Revennaugh has experienced many transitions throughout her life. She loves to travel and has lived in places all over the map—including Ohio, South America, Central America, and Montana, where she currently resides. But two things in Revennaugh’s life have remained constant for many years: her love of horses and her passion for art. Growing up, she says, “I was the girl in school who was always drawing, and I never really stopped.”
About five years ago Revennaugh began to study oil painting, but she struggled to find her artistic voice in that medium. Then about three years ago, she attended her first sculpture workshop, and “it just clicked,” she says. “My mind seems to think more in 3-D than 2-D, so sculpting felt very natural to me.” Revennaugh’s choice in subject matter also came to her naturally, spurred by her lifelong relationship with horses. “I want to portray what I’m passionate about,” she says, “and horses will always be a part of me. They’re in every fiber of my being.” This intense emotional connection with her subject comes through in her work—Revennaugh’s bronze interpretations of horses evoke a sense of the mystery, grace, and awe that humans have associated with the animal for centuries. “Horses are such incredibly powerful and spiritual animals,” Revennaugh says. “If I can convey those qualities and create an emotional response in the viewer, I know I’ve been successful.” Revennaugh’s work can be found at Equis Art Gallery, Red Hook, NY. —Lindsay Mitchell
From elaborate sand castles to handcrafted hood ornaments, T Barny has created things from his imagination since childhood. After earning his bachelor of fine arts in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design, Barny began a career in fine art.
Twenty-five years ago, Barny connected with a gallery in Santa Fe at a time when western subject matter dominated the art scene—but his abstract sculptures were unique and added a contemporary twist. “Originally I was trained in figurative work, but I felt I got much more out of the material in doing abstract shapes,” Barny says. “When someone looks at my work, I want them to say, ‘what the heck is that?’”
His works exude a presence that can be seen and felt. They generally have one continuous edge—like a Möbius strip— representing the circle of life. He’s worked in many materials, including glass, steel, bronze, and wood, but for the last 15 years, he has concentrated on stone. “Stone is one of the oldest art materials man has ever used,” he says. Barny hesitates to categorize his work, but its abstract quality is his way of letting the viewer’s imagination take over. “It’s the stuff of dreams, and when you’re in front of a piece and you’re touching it, it’s magical,” he concludes. Barny is represented by Hunter Kirkland Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM; Melissa Morgan Fine Art, Palm Desert, CA; I. Wolk Gallery, St. Helena, CA; District Gallery, Park City, UT; Titus Contemporary Gallery, Carmel, CA; and Broadhurst Gallery, Pinehurst, NC. —Joe Kovack
Moana Ponder’s classic figurative sculptures are a part of her personal rebellion against what she calls “the cult of ugly.” She says, “I prefer beautiful, positive things to ugly, negative things.” Her dance-inspired pieces personify the beauty of events or elements in the natural world, such as the monarch butterfly migration or the aurora borealis, as well as journeys through the inner landscape.
After studying at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Ponder initially pursued art as a watercolor painter. Years later, an artist friend came to her with a bag of clay and told her, you have to try this. Using just her hands and a toothpick, Ponder fashioned a folkloric dancer from that clay. The piece was cast in bronze and secured her gallery representation. Realizing that sculpture didn’t have to be the western-themed stagecoaches and cowboys that were so popular at the time, she focused on dance-themed works. “I did strictly ballet sculptures for a while,” she says, “but that limited my horizons.” The more general dance-theme pieces she creates today developed from there.
Ponder says, “I consider art to be more than just self-expression. It’s also about communication. I sculpt from the heart, but when my work resonates with someone else, particularly enough for them to want to live with it, then I feel the work is truly complete.” Ponder is represented by Art Incorporated, San Antonio, TX; Art Obsessions, Truckee, CA; and SR Brennen Galleries, Scottsdale, AZ, Sante Fe, NM, and Palm Desert, CA. —Laura Rintala
Christine Knapp was born with an innate fascination for creating. As a child she sculpted horses in the snows of Ohio, combining her desire to create with her love of animals. In high school she studied art and science, drawing and painting the animals she loved before deciding on a career as an emergency-room nurse. But her love of art never diminished, and while nursing kept her busy, she spent her free time in workshops with artists, continuing her education in the arts. Knapp also enjoyed traveling and observing the natural world, collecting reference material for the art she created.
In 1992 after a trip to Yellowstone National Park, a photography workshop, and a visit to a painter-sculptor friend in Montana, Knapp realized that sculpture was her calling and set out to become proficient as a sculptor. Since then she has studied and developed her style, and in 2008 she moved to the mountain town of Lyons, CO, to be where she was continually inspired—the American West. “I noticed that people in Colorado were much different than in Ohio—much more enthusiastic about life, much more enthusiastic about art,” she says. Last year Knapp retired from nursing to focus solely on her art, with no regrets and a lifetime of experience to draw from. “As a nurse I healed people with medicine, and as an artist, I want to heal them with my art,” she concludes. Knapp is represented by Turpin Gallery, Jackson, WY; Cultural Arts Council Fine Art Gallery, Estes Park, CO; and Mary Williams Fine Arts, Boulder, CO. —Joe Kovack
Fish and fowl. Frogs, foxes, and animal feathers. Raymond Gibby includes them all in his menagerie of bronze creatures and artifacts. As a child growing up in Southern California, Gibby loved to catch lizards and toads as well as study the hawks, roadrunners, and rabbits near his home in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains. As a youngster he also liked to draw, especially Native Americans, which are among the sculptor’s favorite subject matter today. Gibby explains that, for him, the Native American culture has always served as a symbol of bravery, romance, spirituality, harmony, and freedom.
The Arkansas-based sculptor is a self-taught artist who initially pursued a career in commercial art. Eventually a job as a supervisor and casting crew member at a Utah foundry —where he helped sculptors execute their visions—inspired him to become a sculptor himself. Rather than go to art school, Gibby learned the skills he needed at the foundry. If viewers connect with his sculptures and learn something about themselves, Gibby says, his artistic mission is accomplished. “My desire is to represent and honor the things I associate with both humanity and wildlife,” he says. The sculptor is represented by Mountain Trails Gallery, Park City, UT, and Jackson, WY; Frank Howell Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; The Gallery at Round Top, Round Top, TX; Hills Creek Gallery, Gatlinburg, TN; and 83 Spring Street Gallery, Eureka Springs, AR. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
For Heidi Kujat, every bronze sculpture she creates tells a story. And her narratives usually ask viewers to take a journey—to heal, to grow, or to explore their emotions and “the unseen world” of goddesses and fairies. The titles of Kujat’s pieces usually offer clues to her positive themes and messages—HOPE, GRATITUDE, COMPASSION, STRENGTH, and CLARITY.
Interestingly enough, the bronzes are often inspired by negative emotions or behaviors. For example, Kujat says that if she sees a person demonstrating stinginess, she may be inspired to fashion a piece that expresses generosity. “Negativity inspires me to create the counterpoint, and I bring it about through one of my angels or goddesses. The positive energy, the higher vibration, overrides the negative,” Kujat says. “I want the sculptures to inspire people and help them feel joy and passion on a daily basis.”
One of the major turning points in her career, Kujat says, occurred when she was studying for her masters in fine art at Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and an instructor told her to let each sculpture speak to her. His words transformed her art philosophy and became the key to her work in the coming years. Today these words also guide her creative process as she shapes and forms a beeswax mixture into her graceful female forms. “That’s where the magic comes in for me,” Kujat says. The artist is represented by Gallery Andrea, Scottsdale, AZ, and Gallerie Corazon, Santa Fe, NM. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
It doesn’t matter when inspiration hits. What matters is being open to that muse and following it with heart. That’s exactly what happened to Scott Rogers after a lifetime of watching his uncle, western sculptor Grant Speed. “Growing up, every time I saw his work, it was like something went off inside of me that said that was magic,” he remembers. Rogers grew up on a secluded farm in Texas, unaware of the cultural scene outside his family’s acres. But after purchasing a sculp- ture from his uncle at age 30, he had a eureka moment of inspiration. He then left the oil-and-gas industry in Dallas behind to forge a career in fine-art sculpting.
In 1997 Rogers moved to Utah, taking with him the inspiration from his uncle and the wisdom of his mentor, sculptor Fritz White, who taught him the fundamentals of art. Rogers’ favorite subject matter is the Old West—a time and place he holds near to his heart—and through his works he hopes to show the feelings and emotions of that gritty period. “There’s a raw essence to the West where people seemed to live on the edge. I want to capture the feeling of that era,” he says. “I love to create sculpture where the presence of the piece is actually larger than the sculpture itself. It’s like capturing that intangible spirit—that’s what I’m after.” Rogers is represented by Illume Gallery of Fine Art, Salt Lake City, UT; Sage Creek Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; Settlers West Galleries, Tucson, AZ; and The Adobe Fine Art, Ruidoso, NM. —Joe Kovack
Featured in the July 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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