Thank you Ashley Gaughan at West Point News
Not all military sculptures are of soldiers and honor guards or for that matter, depict people. Early this year I was asked by the Mayor of Papillion, Nebraska if I had any battlefield cross sculptures available for purchase. Since I didn’t have any I said I will make one. And the first Battlefield Cross sculpture I made was honoring the War on Terror. Then, a couple months later I was contacted by the town of Monroe, Utah who asked if I had a WWII version. Not yet, was my reply. And not long after that my good friend and client Earl Boston in West Point, Nebraska asked for a Vietnam version.
After sculpting for 25 years I had never been asked if I had one battlefield cross, let alone three. And all asked within a few months of each other from three different clients from different parts of the country! Which goes to show and as the saying goes; when it rains it pours.
Battlefield Cross-their purpose
The three Battlefield Crosses (War on Terror, Vietnam and WWII) were created to honor fallen soldiers who died during battle. The life size bronze sculptures are a reminder that war is not free and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice need to be remembered and honored. It is for their bravery, their honor and their sacrifice that we have the freedoms we get to share today. We salute all the Vets who served and all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. Our country is indebted to these heroes. And these sculptures are designed, created and cast in durable bronze to remember and honor their sacrifices.
Here is a link to two of the sculptures in video format to see what they look like from three dimensions. All three versions are available for purchase.
The portrait bust
A portrait bust is defined as capturing a face, neck and chest in a medium such as bronze or stone, etc.. Although traditionally a portrait bust included part of the chest, today we (myself included) incorrectly use the word ‘bust’ to include the head and neck and no chest. But removing a couple of inches of clay to the neckline shouldn’t be enough reason to change its name, so we give it a pass. No harm done. It’s close enough, carry on.
Portrait bust sculpture goes back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. And 2,500 years later they are still common. The art form even made it through the abstract art movement unscathed. Portrait busts are a way to honor someone living or dead and can capture various expressions, moods and a likeness all in a small amount of space. In short, it does everything a full figure can do but with less materials, space and time.
Portrait sculpture is one of those art forms that every sculpture student should spend time on. The reasons are:
- They are inexpensive to make
- They aren’t overwhelming for a beginner, compared with making a full figure portrait
- If you can make a good portrait bust you can make a good figure
My own history creating portrait busts
The first finished portrait bust I made was an art student at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. The model was a beautiful, young Chinese-American woman who sat live for the class. The sculpture I made was of her head, neck and partial chest and I spent two or three weeks creating her likeness. It was challenging and fun. When the clay was all dry, post-graduate students fired it as part of their masters degree program.
The moment I laid eyes on the fired terracotta I was mesmerized. The bust took on a new life. It was then that I realized I had potential at being a sculptor. There was and continues to be a higher level of beauty that us artists experience when we first see our own sculptures transform into a permanent medium like bronze. Perhaps its comparable to when a mother sees her newborn baby for the first time? It’s mesmerizing, magical and beautiful. Symbolically, firing the bust also solidified my passion for sculpture. After I left the Academy I would look at the bust for inspiration. It helped push me forward through the early years of creating sculpture.
To date I have created somewhere between 25-30 portrait busts. Unfortunately, only about 10 of them were ever molded and even less cast in bronze. However, I am excited with the many new busts coming in the next year as more commissions come in. New portrait busts in queue are of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Buddy Holly and a second bust of James Dean.
To see these and some of my other sculptures take shape, please follow me on Facebook at Sutton Betti Sculptures.
Italians as sculptures: a series
In 2004, after I returned home from a trip to Italy I challenged myself to create a series of life size bronze sculptures of influential and great Italians, from any era in history through today. Niccolo Paganini was the first life size cast in bronze. And this of Alberta Brianti was the second one finished in bronze.
Why create sculptures of Italians?
My grandpa Betti’s family came from Lucca which is a small city in the Tuscany region. On this trip I visited the small city of Lucca and went to a phone book just for the heck of it and saw several pages of Betti’s listed. I never felt so at home seeing Betti after Betti listed! I wanted to call each and every one of them and express the joy I felt and make a complete fool of myself. “Hi I’m a Betti too!!”. But I didn’t. As an American I was usually “Betty” first then Sutton. It used to make me so frustrated as a kid. But when I saw how common of a name it was, not only in Lucca but in much of Tuscany, I connected more to my roots then I had before.… this idea was born from that experience and its one I’ll never forget; sculpt Italians and do it well.
Every so often I’ll post “A Day in the Life”. For you, the reader. And for my mom, so she knows I’m working.
A Day in the Life of a Sculptor; November 6, 2022
Day 1 of 2; I got out of bed at 4:30 am, mostly wide awake because I couldn’t sleep. That tends to be my normal before I leave for an install. I had decided a couple of days before leaving that I’d load up the sculptures first thing in the morning rather than the day before. The ten sculptures I took to West Point, Nebraska were seven battlefield crosses, one saluting US Navy and two Vietnam medals.
The night before Jessica suggested I try to fit all ten bronze sculptures in my truck and not haul a trailer. I quickly reacted with “do you know what I’m hauling???” And afterwards said to her “I’ll think about it”. Well it turns out she was right; all 900 pounds of bronze sculptures fit in my truck. And therefore no trailer was needed (Thank you, Jessica!)
The eight hour drive was very peaceful. These drives across state lines usually are for me. Especially going to a familiar place in West Point, where I can look forward to visiting my client and friend Earl. Earl has continuously bought sculptures from me for the past ten or so years. I was fortunate to have a pair of Bluetooth headphones with me so I listened to a good amount of Bruce Springsteen and a podcast called Artholes that delves into the crazy lives of famous artists. With the earbuds in and mind-wandering the drive went fast.
When I arrived Earl invited me to dinner at a wonderful restaurant; the Bohemian Duck. His daughter, grandson and an employee Casey met us. Bohemian Duck is in downtown West Point. Although I had heard of their food from Earl I wouldn’t have guessed it would turn out to be anything comparable to a cafe in Paris or a small restaurant in SF. This was a small town after all. Boy, was I wrong! The salmon was the best. Since I love to cook I had to find out what went into this delicious meal. However, I was stopped short as the waitress wouldn’t share the chefs secret ingredient. She did say the fish is flown in weekly. And… they don’t freeze the fish. So what you get is as fresh as it comes. For the eleven years I’ve been coming to West Point this was my first great meal.
A Day in the Life; November 7, 2022
Installation and Military Memorabilia
Delta Force, work in progress
For the past couple of months my team and I have been working hard on this special ops soldier. The 74 inch clay sculpture will be cast in bronze this year and installed in a beautiful Veterans Memorial park near the Eau Claire river in Wisconsin. The life size sculpture is one of several that will be installed in this large park that will honor thirteen American wars starting with the American Revolution and ending with this sculpture representing the Global War on Terror.
The soldier that it captures is Delta Force from the early 2000’s. With all of the details involved in the sculpture I worked closely with a military historian for accuracy. The sculpture will be installed in 2023.
New sculpting studio
Last month I moved into a new sculpture studio. This new 2200 square foot studio space is being used entirely for clay sculpting. The other two studios (located 3 miles away) are used for the labor intensive steps of turning clay into bronze.
Although it has been many years since I’ve had my own sculpture studio that wasn’t a shared space (17 years to be exact) I immediately felt at home in this new space. Of course, it helps that the area is still used for artists studios and that my new space is right next door to a now closed bronze foundry. Although the Loveland Sculpture Works Foundry has been closed since 2003, the area still has labeled awnings and signs designating this area as an arts community. And this, of course, helps me connect with my creative side.
Portrait bust of Mother Teresa
In this new creative space I decided to take a rare day off from commissioned work to start a sculpture bust. Sculpture busts give me great, great joy! They are relatively quick to create and include all of the techniques I use on a full figure condensed into a small area. Since I can usually get a bust sculpted in one or two 5-6 hour sessions, they are a great way to break up the time consuming full figure sculptures which take much longer.
On Friday morning over warm tea, I decided on making this portrait bust of Mother Teresa. After gathering all of the reference material and composing the bust I began work. With ear buds in I listened to podcasts of her life story, which often times had me in tears. I worked on the bust for seven hours and called it done when I felt it could be overworked.
Mother Teresa’s devotion to the Catholic Church and reaching into the hearts of the slums of India (Calcutta) is astonishing. But what captured my attention more than this are stories of how she felt abandoned by God for 50 years. I think most of us can, at some point, connect with this feeling of silence. I have certainly felt this. But feeling disconnected from God doing the exhaustive work she did must have been incredibly difficult.
In the bust, Mother Teresa’s head is turned to her left side and her eyes glance slightly upwards to God. With her mouth parted only slightly she speaks; Why have you distanced yourself from me? Is my life’s work and love for humanity not worthy of your LOVE?
It’s hard to imagine a life like hers whose devotion and care was so public. Yet she stayed the course and persevered for decades which earned her being canonized in 2016. For all she did and went through I hope my portrait bust does her justice.
Big Fish: Portrait of Allen Ginsborg
Last month we installed a life size bronze fishing sculpture of a northern Colorado developer, Allen Ginsborg. Although this sculpture is of a man holding a fish, it honors a man who built a reputation for building some of northern Colorado’s biggest developments. Some of his creations include Woodward Inc.’s campus, parts of Centerra in Loveland, Marketplace in Fort Collins and Village at the Peaks in Longmont. It now sits permanently within the fountains at Village at the Peaks.
Allen was an avid fly fisherman and cyclist who loved the outdoors. And as a well respected businessman Mr. Ginsborg was a frequent lecturer at Everitt Real Estate Center who mentored CSU students. With a great balance of family, faith, business and community, the community will miss him.
From Idea to Permanent Art
The monument took seven months to create. From December 2021 through March 2022, my assistant Michael and I worked on the clay original. After finishing the clay we created a mold off of the clay original. With the mold complete, we poured melted wax into the molds. From there, the wax castings were cooled, removed, then cleaned up in preparation for pouring bronze. Than the local bronze foundry carefully took the delicate waxes and prepared them for bronze casting using the lost wax casting method.
Over a period of two months foundry artisans worked hard on casting the waxes into bronze. For more information on this process please visit Art Castings website.
While the sculpture was being cast I began looking for a granite boulder to match the landscape. Once the metal castings arrived at my studio, my team assembled and chased the full size sculpture. Then later the bronze sculpture was patinated by a professional patineur. The granite boulder that he sits on weighs just under 1 ton. Because of its weight it was installed using a extended boom forklift.
In conclusion, the life size bronze fishing sculpture honors Mr. Ginsborg and his love for the outdoors. It is an homage to a man who loved to fish and helped shaped the Northern Colorado community.
Photos of Big Fish: Portrait of Allen Ginsborg
This past week I have been busy putting on the finishing touches of this life size female Navy Officer saluting the flag. The clay original measures 68 1/2 inches tall and will be cast in bronze over the next few months. The life size sculpture is designed to be installed near an American flag. The sculpture is the second saluting soldier I’ve made, the first being an Air Force Sergeant that was originally sculpted in 2018.
A day to Remember and Honor
Memorial Day; a day to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country. We should always remember this day as that and not how I remember it growing up as a kid with a day off from school or work, backyard bbq’s, poolside activities and music. It’s a day to honor the lives lost fighting for our freedoms. Not a happy day by any means.
Over the past ten years I’ve been honored to have many of my sculptures take center stage during the Memorial Day weekend, as well as other major holidays that honor our service members. While it gives me joy (for lack of a better word) that my sculptures can help people heal from their loss, on the flip side of the coin it helps me see that there are so many families that have lost loves ones during battle.
Making military themed sculptures creates a yin and yang of emotions in me, it has to. As an artist, you have to create something powerful and real so the viewer can connect with the artwork. This requires a lot of hard work as well as passion for what one does. Good anatomy, movement and strong composition are some of the elements that make for great art. But as an artist you also need to connect with your subject and what it feels like, for example, if you are in battle or lost a friend during battle. Without connecting deeply to what the subject is doing the artwork fails. I am fortunate to know quite a few Veterans who, like my late father, have shared with me their feelings of loss and war that they hold deep inside their heart. The yin is in the strength and power of the sculpture. The yang is the emotions it evokes in the viewer.
Memorial Day; a day to remember and never forget.
I take pride when I can create a sculpture that evokes an emotional response in people. It means I’ve done my job well. Below are photos of various monuments during Memorial Day 2022.