“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.
Since the end of December 2018 I’ve been working on this bareback bronc sculpture for a wonderful client out of Pueblo, Colorado. The initial plans were for this 1/2 life size sculpture to be placed at Roselawn Cemetery in Pueblo. But my client decided to instead have it placed in downtown Pueblo right next to a local business on a plot of land she purchased. Of course, to have any sculpture permanently installed anywhere is a great privilege, but having one installed in the heart of a downtown and part of their scene makes it so much more special. This 300 lb bronze sculpture will be mounted on top of two tons of sandstone which is quarried out of Masonville, a 10 minute drive from my studio. The project honors my clients husband from when he used to bareback bronc ride in the 1950’s and was inspired by a photograph from that time.
On July 23, 2017 I was asked to do designs of saluting US Air Force sculptures, both male and female. The planning committee at American Veterans Park wanted to get a sense of all of the statues that will be installed over the next 2-3 years.
My initial designs had the sculptures as active duty pilots, holding their pilot helmet in left hand and saluting with their right. They were wearing their flight suits and had a similar look and feel to a sculpture I had sculpted a few years prior, WWII Tuskegee Airman, Joe Gomer.
In the end, the sculpture that was decided on was a middle aged sergeant saluting. The sculpture which I am now finishing up was inspired by the late Bernie Hunke, a West Point, NE US Air Force veteran. Bernie was on the planning committee at AVP and had modeled for the future sculpture sometime in 2018 with in-the-round photos (something that I create for all of my statues). Although the sculpture isn’t a likeness of Bernie, it does have elements of his posture, body proportions and uniform based off of the photos that were taken of him in the pose. An unfortunate accident had taken Bernie’s life so this sculpture will have so much special meaning to his family and to the West Point community.