Remembering & Remembering the Fallen, a look back
I made two life size outdoor statues that are similar to each other in pose and feeling, but they are two different sculptures. Remembering and Remembering the Fallen. While they are both US Marines kneeling and remembering, there are two differences that I feel compelled to write about.
Remembering is a kneeling soldier from the war on terror and is supposed to represent a modern day soldier. He was the first US Marine I sculpted and he was made a few years before Remembering the Fallen. The life size sculpture was modeled after a friend, a US Marine who served at the start of the war in Afghanistan.
The Marine is kneeling holding his combat helmet in his right arm and his left hand raised up against a wall. It could be any wall; a concrete wall that was blasted from an attack or a wall symbolizing remembrance. He was designed to be remembering a fallen brother. Over the years, however, the meaning of this sculpture has grown a little deeper. I’ve reimagined him as remembering more than a soldier. Instead, perhaps he is remembering the sacrifices he and others make for the sake of freedom. Or perhaps it is the collateral loss or the price of war. Memories stay with us especially traumatic ones.
Remembering the Fallen, which is the second version in my Remembering “series”, was sculpted in 2017. This modern day soldier is not clutching his helmet or with his hand raised to a wall, but instead he is holding a folded flag. A ceremonial folded flag.
When I first made this sculpture my thought was would an active-duty soldier really be carrying a folded flag to combat? Initially, this question persisted in my head. But, I decided, after internal debating, if he recently lost a family member in war he might carry one.
This soldier is in a different emotional loss than the first Remembering. He takes the loss deeper. Deep enough to carry the most important memory he now has of his brother or sister, to the most dangerous locations on earth. To honor and to hold someone close one last time.
The meaning behind this newer sculpture seems to have transformed my thoughts on the previous sculpture. It’s weird how that happens.
When I first posted Remembering the Fallen on social media, it went something near viral. Well, as viral as my own sculptures had ever gotten at that point. It had hundreds of shares in a matter of days. It was impressive. I immediately started getting emails, private messages and phone calls from people who fell in love with it. They were from all over the country and what a surprise it was!
Meaning of an artwork can change, but the artwork itself doesn’t
It is interesting how time changes our views on something. It changes our views on life, on family, things we cherish or don’t cherish. We may have hated some of our teachers when we were in school but now we see their good side. But to stay on track, views on art change as well even though the artwork doesn’t. In the case of Remembering vs. Remembering the Fallen, I think that because I had created a similar mood and pose with the second sculpture that it changed my views on the first sculpture.
I have admired and continue to admire many works of art, especially through social media which makes it easy to study someones artwork. Some artwork seem to have meaning or feeling that changes with time. Perhaps morphing into something else. I imagine the Mona Lisa and the Thinker are the best examples. Right out of the womb they weren’t seen as icons or symbols of painting or sculpture that they are now. But at some point after their creation they became so.
An artworks feeling/energy/meaning/depth etc changes with time. But all artwork doesn’t change on the same level. Some probably don’t change at all. And that is what is fascinating to me. What makes artwork stand the test of time? Why, for example, have Thomas Kinkade paintings, which were once highly sought after, been looked down upon in the last twenty or so years?
As I approach half a century on our planet I can see the importance of art and why it is so valued. Some might say art is even more valued today with social media and the broader audience artists can get. Art changes us and gives us a place to put our thoughts and emotions. Art can be our worst enemy one day and our best friend the next. While the artwork itself doesn’t change, maybe we do.
Earlier this year I began sculpting a life size K9 sculpture for a veterans memorial in Ohio. The sculpture is a tribute to military working dogs and was inspired by my dad’s dog Sarge.
Sarge, a beautiful German Sheppard, was adopted as a puppy and trained to be my dad’s service dog. Since my dad suffered from mild PTSD from his service in Vietnam, Sarge would help him cope with his condition. He was my dad’s best friend and was with him till the very end on their last walk together on April 30, 2015.
With Sarge living in Southern California having him sit for me at my studio in northern Colorado wasn’t feasible. So, I went in search of finding a local German Sheppard, similar in build, that I could use for reference for the life size sculpture. I called a couple of dog training businesses and one of them, K9 Wisdom Training in Loveland, responded that they had a beautiful, young Sheppard. I met with the trainer to snap pictures and take measurements of the German Sheppard posing as a military service dog.
The military dog statue was then created in my studio in Loveland, Colorado. After one month of sculpting and three months at the foundry Liberty was finished.
Liberty is a tribute to military working dogs
Representing all military dogs, the monument honors the sacrifices all war dogs make that give us the freedoms we enjoy. Liberty was also created in memory of my dad. The project got its start on the five year anniversary of his death.
The bronze sculpture now stands guard at the fallen soldier memorial in the center of Bloomville Veterans Memorial in Bloomville, Ohio. She was installed September 2, 2020 completing a five year construction project that began in 2015.
Recently I came back from beautiful Wisconsin where I delivered three of my life size bronze sculptures to clients who are building a large veterans memorial along the Eau Claire river. I have been working with the foundation since late 2019 to create sculptures for the Veterans memorial and this past week I finally got to see the site where it will all come together.
Below are the first three sculptures that were delivered and temporarily installed last week. I met with the foundation members over dinner on Wednesday and got a tour of the site the following day, after we delivered the sculptures to nearby veterans organizations (who are holding the sculptures until the site is further along). The sculptures that I delivered are two Honor Guard sculptures, also known as Sentinels, and a third sculpture of a Gold Star Mother with poppies. These three sculptures will be the first grouping and will be permanently installed sometime next spring 2021. Details in the coming months.
Honor Guard, presenting arms
Present Arms, Honor Guard was first designed to guard the entrance to a 1/4 acre veterans park in West Point, Nebraska. American Veterans Park is a tribute to all veterans from across the United States and recognizes the service and sacrifice of all U.S. servicemen and women. As a real Honor Guard guards National Monuments and provides military funeral honors, this life size bronze sculpture guards the entrance to a veterans park in a small town. In 2021, an additional bronze casting will be created and permanently installed in a large veterans park at another location. Details in the coming months.
In the beginning…
The sculpture first began in 2017 when I was asked to provide concept sketches for a United States Army and Marine Honor Guard presenting arms. Presenting Arms has been used since the 1700’s and is a common command in all branches of the military all over the world. The command is a show of respect and honor when presenting their weapons.
The initial sketch, although rough, represents an Honor Guard from the modern day War on Terror. The eight inch tall sketch was enough to get a green light to create the life size version. Since my clients were familiar with my work it wasn’t necessary to create a small maquette or more detailed 2D renderings. Generally, these are necessary before beginning a large sculpture in order to illustrate how the finished artwork would look.
Before I began the full size clay original I studied the “inspiration photo” for posture and general anatomy as well as how the uniform fit the soldier. The photo was also heavily referenced throughout the claying up process for accuracy and was initially provided to me by a member of the planning committee at AVP. Since there are always questions that arise during the process having this handy was essential.
I also received the jacket, trousers, gloves, shoes, cap as well as a replica firearm in the mail from the same committee member. A model was hired to pose in the uniform, photos were taken in-the-round and I began work. After five weeks and 200 hours of careful clay modeling the 5’ 10” tall sculpture was completed.
There are some artists who have told me that this sculpture is too technical. Or that it doesn’t leave enough room for interpretation. For me, I get satisfaction when there is less margin for error and perhaps even less room for expression in a sculpture. In my mind, if you can pull off a very strict pose and give the sculpture energy, life and maybe even make it identifiable to your past works then you have success.
For a more detailed description of the process from finished clay to bronze casting please visit my YouTube video. This video highlights the bronze casting process under five minutes using another of my sculptures.
Below are photos of the sculpture in various stages of completion.
Globe Refiners installation
On September 28-29, 2020 the Globe Refiners installation took place in McPherson, Kansas. My installation team consisted of Johnson Granite Supply, West Point Monument, myself and Jessica. We coordinated closely with Hutton Construction and CHS Refinery from Kansas.
In the beginning
The project got it’s start in July 2019 when Jessica and I met with McPherson Mayor Tom Brown and the Mingenback Foundation. We met at the McPherson Museum and afterwords got a tour of the newly renovated community building where the Globe Refiners played from 1933-1936. The foundation and Mayor Brown communicated that they wanted a sculpture to honor the whole team.
After a couple of weeks of sketching out ideas I submitted my design. In September 2019 I got the green light, signed a contract and began work. I then gathered up my team which consisted of nine businesses from six states. And these businesses were all with companies I had done work with previously.
The finished artwork
After 13 months of hard work and close attention to details (and plenty of measuring) the project was finished. The monument consists of a curved bronze relief mounted to it’s core stainless steel structure. This stainless cage holds 8000 lbs. of laser etched black granite walls and 8000 lbs of pre-cast concrete for the roof. Three benches of black granite and pre-cast concrete house three different ceramic tiles representing the Olympic Gold medal, the Globe Refiners logo and the Berg ball used in the Olympic finals. To mimic the hardwood floors on a basketball court we used linear pavers. Up-lighting provided the final touch for viewing at dusk.
Thank you to all involved in helping to honor the McPherson Globe Refiners basketball team and for the smooth Globe Refiners installation. Without all of those passionately involved there is no way this project could have happened. It was a labor of love for me and my team as it was for the Mingenback Foundation and the mayor of McPherson who spearheaded the project!
The Globe Refiners story will continue on for future generations to come. And now “The Tallest Team in the World” and the first basketball team to win Olympic gold has a permanent bronze sculpture to tell their story.
Photos below highlight the installation process