It’s busy-ness as UNusual (for me)
Just a week or two before the Corona Virus took over our lives, demanding Coloradoans to stay at home, my sculpture business was it’s busiest it had ever been in the past twenty years.
To give you an idea of what was going on in my studio in early March 2020; I had finished prepping waxes for 29 sculptures to be cast in bronze for various projects (one of which was honoring Colorado Springs philanthropist Julie Penrose) and I had just finished sculpting my monument honoring the McPherson Globe Refiners, which had taken me about 6 months to sculpt. I had finished two of my larger scale garden elves for a couple of very good clients and was metal chasing trophies for the Western States Endurance Run in California. There had been a couple of potential projects in the pipes, one of which I thought would start in the coming days of finishing the Refiners project and, then finally, I had a life size clay sculpture to finish and cast in bronze for a Recreation Center in Fraser, Colorado.
It was a busy time and it was only a few weeks ago. All of the sculptures had significant deadlines so I was working long hours and 6-7 days per week, multi-tasking on the various stages. I was EXHAUSTED but I was moving forward and chipping away.
Light (and uncertainty) at the end of the tunnel
While I was working on these various projects, I got an email from a wonderful lady named Sally, the daughter of Joe Fortenberry. Sally lives 10 miles from my studio and contacted me to ask if she could see the sculpture of her dad and his teammates. I had just finished sculpting her dad so the timing couldn’t have been better. My jaw dropped to the floor, in all honesty! I remember standing in my studio smiling and marveling at how the universe works and how connected we all are. Naturally, I invited her to the studio.
Sally’s dad Joe Fortenberry was the top scorer in the Gold medal Olympic basketball game of 1936, the first year basketball became an Olympic sport. The US basketball team dominated in Hitler’s Olympics and during the final Gold medal game on August 14, 1936 Fortenberry scored the same amount of points as their rivals from Canada.
Her dad inspired the term “Dunk” to refer to the method in which a player scores a basket (written by Arthur Daley about Fortenberry in the NY Times in March, 1936) and he was the prime example of why the defensive goaltending rule was adopted and the “jump ball after every basket” rule was rescinded. Sally’s dad was probably one of basketball’s biggest game changers throughout its long history.
On March 4, Jessica and I had the honor of welcoming Sally and her family to my studio to show the sculpture in clay before it went off to the mold maker to start its transformation into bronze.
The days following their visit saw a dramatic slowdown; projects were delivered to the foundry (and off my plate), the corona virus was changing our lives and projects fell through or were put on hold because of it. Basically, my life changed instantaneously to a snails pace. In a matter of days I was staring out my living room window (like the entire world) and wondering what was about to happen with our economy and with our lives. Now, under a stay at home order for at least a few more weeks, it is evident that this will be a long, hard fought battle. But I am and always will be grateful for the month of March 2020.
“The Tallest Team in the World is the BEST team in the World”- Walter Judge for the Denver Post, March 22, 1936
When I was a kid playing basketball in the 80’s and 90’s it seemed like anything before Dr. J or Magic Johnson was the dark ages. There wasn’t much being taught on the history of the sport, at least none that I was aware of. Maybe part of it was, as a kid, you look up to living legends and much of what was/is written is current and for a reason.
But as I work on a large sculptural project honoring the Globe Refiners, I’m amazed at how their story has been forgotten for the last 80 plus years. In all my growing up years I never learned where the word Dunk came from and how the game evolved. Or why goaltending was created in the rule book? Much of it started with the Globe Refiners. Their story is unique and certainly worthy of a large monument.
The McPherson Globe Refiners were being called the tallest team in the world and the best team in the world 5 months before they even won the first ever Olympic Gold in basketball in 1936! Only 12 days before this was the invention of the word “DUNK”, (it was first published in the New York Times on March 10, 1936 describing this team from Kansas)! They WERE giants back then and I wonder how basketball would have evolved without them. Maybe DUNK would be called something else like dipped or sunk or shimmied…Michael Jordan shimmied his way to the hoop and powerblasted it into the hoop, HA!! That doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?!
The McPherson Globe Refiners history is unique and not very well known. I designed this monument to tell their story.
In 1936, Jesse Owens dominated the track and field competition in the Berlin Olympics. Most of us know that story. However, what is not so well known is the team from central Kansas that won the first ever gold medal in basketball, the same year and location that Owens shined. It’s a part of our American history and this monument will shed light on their forgotten story.
At 11 feet wide and 8 feet tall the sculpture is a portrait of the Globe Refiners who were active from 1933-36. The finished monument will contain the curved bronze relief as well as 8 foot tall granite walls that tell a brief history of the team and their Olympic gold medal win in Hitler’s Olympics. The bronze mid-relief is curved to add interest and uniqueness to the work of art.
The sculpture will be permanently installed in September 2020 just outside of the community building where the team used to practice. Here is a link to read more about the Globe Refiners: McPherson Globe Refiners basketball
Julie Penrose was a philanthropist from the early 1900’s in Colorado Springs, CO. She is credited along with her husband Spencer Penrose with building the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, funding the Pikes Peak highway, constructing the Penrose Hospital, Broadmoor Art Academy, the Carriage House Museum and Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun. They founded the El Pomar Foundation on December 17, 1937.
Julie and Spencer were the catalysts for a large number of projects in Colorado in the 1900’s. But her and her husband’s construction of The Broadmoor Hotel in 1918 is their most well-known creation. Julie was involved in endless details concerning the construction, design and decor of the hotel, including the artistic decorations, furnishings, china patterns, draperies, carpets and art objects.
“Nurturing Our Future”
The life size sculpture that Dan Glanz and I designed will honor the philanthropist Julie Penrose. “Nurturing Our Future” was commissioned by El Pomar Foundation in September 2019. Realistically modeled, the sculpture will be cast in bronze and later installed at the Penrose House in June 2020. She will be permanently installed on a concrete bench that will be recreated from one of the old benches on the property. Next to her will be bronze construction documents of The Broadmoor. The rolled up documentst will represent her involvement in building the famous hotel as well as represent her philanthropic nature. In her right hand she will hold a cross necklace, symbolizing her catholic faith.
My birthday was a few days ago and every year around this time I contemplate my direction and goals as an artist. One of the things that I enjoy doing is stay home, drink warm coffee and daydream. Yes, that’s right-daydream. Eventually I’ll think about what I’d like to sculpt next. Usually it’s a grandiose idea that gets scaled back to more of a realistic size.
The idea to sculpt a portrait bust of Babe Ruth came while I was sitting at the drawing table and looking out at the falling snow. During the weekend I had watched the Sandlot for the first time. Jessica recommended the movie and although I was at first reluctant soon I realized that it would be good. The movie was centered around baseball and had the Great Bambino as several talking points throughout.
What I’ve learned about creating art is that the more one thinks about something the better it will turn out. A good example of this is my bust of Babe Ruth. The idea came to me on Monday (4 days ago). By Tuesday I was snowed in with 20 inches of fresh snow and couldn’t leave the house. I spent the day thinking about creating the clay bust and studying the subject. I gathered up several digital images on a thumb drive knowing that Wednesday I’d be able to bust out of the house for the studio (which is less than 2 miles from my home). On Wednesday I setup a digital camcorder to record the sculpting process. 10 hours later I had a finished portrait bust and the film to make a time-lapse video of it being created.
The portrait took me 10 hours to create. The reason that it went so well was that I took the time to study images and read about Babe Ruth. I also had thought about the sculpture and its various angles in my head. So that when I began working on it, I felt like I was sitting in a drag racing car.
The 15 inch tall bust will eventually be cast in plaster or bronze and added to the studio collection. Here is a youtube video I made of its creation, 10 hours squeezed into 2 1/2 minutes Babe Ruth portrait bust time-lapse
Globe Refiners relief sculpture in progress
Basketball has been a part of my life since I was a kid in school. I first started playing the popular sport, like every kid in the 80’s, at home with a back board and rim up mounted above the garage. I played on a sloped driveway with friends and neighbors and sometimes even myself. In college, I would play pickup games with friends and strangers. The last pickup game I played was a few years ago, in my early 40’s. I thought that I would be able to compete against local high school kids at the recreation center, so I agreed to the challenge. But I soon had to exit the game after running up and down the full court several times to save myself from injury or exhaustion (and from further embarrassment). I have since been content to just “shooting hoops” for the last few years.
As a sculptor, I feel my greatest gifts are when I’m honoring someone or something. When the opportunity came to honor a basketball team with a monument, one can imagine how I felt. I had sculpted a few basketball players over the years, but nothing previously compares to the scale of this project. With an 11 foot wide curved bronze relief that will honor the nine players and one coach that won gold in the Olympics the Globe Refiners relief sculpture (in progress) is unlike anything I’ve sculpted previously. On the backside there will be 17 feet of laser etched black granite walls to tell their unique story. I designed the 600 square foot courtyard with the artwork as the focal point. When it’s finished it will be almost like a small outdoor museum.
At this point in the project I am not even half way through the sculpting phase, but it feels as though I’ve accomplished so much more. There will be updates periodically throughout its creation. Here is a link to see more of my works: SCULPTURES
In mid-September of this year my life size bronze sculpture of a saluting Air Force Sergeant was delivered and installed at American Veterans Park in West Point, Nebraska. The saluting sculpture is permanently installed on a grey granite base and is the 7th large scale sculpture that I have at the quarter acre park, with three more left to sculpt. The 6 foot tall bronze statue is dedicated to all active soldiers and veterans but it is also dedicated to Bernie Hunke, a long time resident of West Point, veteran, active community member, husband and father. Bernie had modeled for the sculpture a couple of months before he tragically passed away. The sculpture is significant in this town of around 3500 because of who Bernie was and what he did for the community.
American Veterans Park was first conceived a few years ago. I was first contacted to create the sculptures that would eventually honor all branches of the military back in late 2016. The first installation was a life size bronze bald eagle titled “Freedom Wings” that is cantilevered 17 feet in the air on one of three 20 foot tall grey granite columns and has come to represent the park. With the large American flag flying just above and red, white and blue lights shining on her at night it is a spectacular site to see. It is unique, beautiful and makes me feel grateful for my involvement in this beautiful project honoring all veterans of the military.