How we look at sculpture is more than what we see, but rather how we feel about it.
Since 2009, sculptor Sutton Betti has been inspired to make sculptures of historical, sports and military themes. This is partially due to his move to northern Colorado in 2005 where many western and historical sculptors live and work. But more importantly he was inspired by his father Dave Betti, a U.S. Marine whom he consulted with on several military related monuments. His father, a Vietnam vet, was past president of the Vietnam Veterans of Ventura County for many years working as an advocate for service members’ families in receiving Veteran benefits, as well as other military causes. Sutton’s art began focusing on monumental military sculptures because as he says, it was a way to be close to his dad while honoring those who served our country.
When his father died suddenly in 2015, the artist changed his approach to creating sculptures. Compositions with purpose and emotion were favored and the artist began taking military themes on more of a personal level. Sutton credits this turning point while attending his father’s funeral services in Southern California. Sutton met several Vietnam veterans whose lives were impacted by his father. Hearing their stories of struggle, gratitude and honor lifted his spirit and ultimately changed his opinion on what creating sculpture was about. Now he strives to create a deep emotional connection to his art while honoring our veterans; less emphasis on technique and more on feeling. Sculptures that are still as detailed as they once were, but one that may tug at your own heart as they might remind you of your grandfather who served in WWII or your own father.
Creating figurative bronze sculptures wasn’t what Sutton Betti had in mind when he decided he wanted to be an artist many years ago. But after a long and tireless journey working in many fields of sculpture, the artist has found his life’s calling. If you were to ask him what it is that he has sculpted, he’ll tell you that it’s been a little bit of everything.
Since he can remember, Betti has always had a pencil in his hand drawing the things of childhood imagination and imitating his uncle’s caricatures and fairy tale drawings. This early training prepared him for the time he spent at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University studying classical painting, drawing, sculpture and human anatomy. For a period of three years in the late 1990’s, Betti devoted his time to the Academy all the while with one goal on his mind; to be hired by Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida, Inc. At the end of his third year his portfolio was critiqued in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Orlando, Florida by Disney. But after several months of waiting he got the call that out of the 63 finalists worldwide that had the same hopes and dreams as him, Betti didn’t make the cut.
Discouraged, Betti left the Academy and quickly found work in a small animation studio in the North Bay Area where he became a “cleanup artist”. His job was to take rough pencil sketches and do final pen drawings that would then be used as the final artwork for a CD-Rom game. Day after day, week after week, he created hundreds of drawings until digital technology in the animation business began replacing traditional methods, forcing Betti to either go digital or look for other work.
In 1998, Betti worked for Illusive Concepts and Paper Magic Group, a California mask making business sculpting halloween masks and he also began creating large scale sculptures for hotels and casinos in Las Vegas under the sculptor Mario Chiodo. He worked in the halloween mask making business when the industry was growing and he found a niche sculpting halloween masks of famous people and politicians. Masks such as Elvira as well as demons, monsters and aliens were some of his creations. He learned techniques for creating wrinkles, hair and skin textures that carried over well throughout all of the mold making and casting processes. Some of his masks are still being sold in various locations throughout the US. The artistic growth he experienced influenced him to pursue sculpture as a business.
During a summer trip to Italy to study Michelangelo in 1998, Betti was inspired to follow in the path of traditional art. For a period of 5 years immediately afterwards the artist lived modestly in a small garage with no plumbing and focused his energies on technique and produced over 100 sculptures. Most of them have since been destroyed (or consumed) to give life to a future piece.
Betti worked for seven years sculpting realistic and proprietary mannequins, working closely with clients such as Nike, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Athleta, Armani, Target as well as Disney. The experience of sculpting life size athletic and fashion mannequin forms under tight deadlines helped to create a thorough knowledge of the human body.
During the summer of 2004, Sutton was sponsored by the sculptor Danielle Anjou to study stone carving in Pietrasanta, Italy. The artist’s second trip to Italy captivated his attention with more study and hard work, carving statuary marble and learning stone carving techniques used for centuries by master Italian craftsmen. Some of the techniques taught were the last of their kind as many of the old stone carvers were retiring so the lessons from the greats that were passed down since Michelangelo’s time were fading out due to modern abstract art techniques and a lack of interest in traditional figurative stone carving. The lessons learned during this critical time of growth hold tremendous value to the artist many years later.
After moving to Colorado in 2005, Betti worked for the bronze sculptor Dee Clements creating fine art bronze sculptures for galleries and public art memorials. It was here that Betti learned all of the techniques used in the bronze business and soon had all of the skills necessary to run his own sculpture business.
In 2009, he permanently installed his first large scale public art sculpture honoring the workers of Hoover Dam in Boulder City, Nevada. The sculpture “Puddler’s Break” helped to launch his career into creating large scale bronze monuments and memorials. He has since built large scale figurative bronze monuments in Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Louisiana, California and Ohio.
Betti divides his time between creating monumental commissioned work, bas relief and table top bronzes. He is currently in the process of working on life size bronze military sculptures for American Veterans Park in West Point, NE.