Raison d’etre

One morning in 1960, I opened the door of the sculpture studio at the University of Michigan, looked in, and was stunned. What I saw was a group of art students working intensely on plaster sculptures, critiquing each other’s efforts and totally absorbed by the process. I found myself, in that moment, witnessing an activity I had never seen before—and I was immediately drawn into it. Having grown up in Escanaba, Michigan, a small Upper Peninsula town, my schooling was limited and the idea that sculptures were actually made by sculptors was a revelation! And it wasn’t until I was a young adult that I first saw what could be found in museums and metropolitan parks.

Of course during my magical epiphany in Ann Arbor over a half century ago, it was not clear to me that visual art would become my creative world and sculpture would be my chosen field, but I was aware that something significant was happening to me. Since then I have, as a sculptor, been hoping to touch people with the primal shapes that live in my imagination and my memory.

Sometimes the forms I create are representational, sometimes abstract. Always my motive is to make a solid shape of emotional consequence, and to give that shape context, interest, possibility and power. As my sculpture has evolved over time I have been working to simplify and purify, peeling away the unnecessary until I expose the core, the raison d’etre.

In 2018 I was commissioned by the State of Vermont to make a bronze sculpture for the Vermont Veterans Cemetery in Randolph. The cemetery is nestled in a beautiful stretch of quiet slopes surrounded by green mountains, a place for both sadness and hope. I chose to create a life-sized horse grieving the fallen warrior who was once its comrade. A white quartz grave marker acknowledges the relationship of the piece with the hundreds of others commemorated in the cemetery. The veterans call the horse “Honor.”

What I wanted was a shape that would convey steadfastness and grief—seen from a distance or up close. My strategy, as it is for all of my work, was to refine the shape so that it exists as a pure object in space.

HonorFor the last twenty years I have been finding inspiration in the fields and forest that surround the Vermont home I share with my partner, Tony Keller.

In the greenhouse adjacent to my studio I have tended and observed various species of plants, many started from seeds I gathered. I enjoy propagating plants, enjoy shaping abstract flowers like “Promise”( 2011), a large (88” x 36” x 35”) bronze flower.

Anthropopathism was not my objective, but I can’t help seeing the vertical stance of the sculpture with its chest thrust out in pride and a head held joyfully high. I think it’s delighted to exist. Perhaps seeing the sculpture helps the viewer smile inside.

This attention to simplification was present when I made “Guardian ” (2017), a monumental abstract Travertine stone piece in Suzhou, China. The location, a tranquil lakeside outlook with a city of over six million people visible across the water presented me with an opportunity to express my own feelings about the human condition. There is an intended ambiguity in the apparent calm of the sculpture and its environmental context. The large open oval—the guardian—is gently sheltering an exposed and much smaller form placed within. Who, really, are our guardians? Ultimately can we expect their protection? Are we all children who can be whisked away at any time? Although seemingly peaceful in shape, vulnerability is at the core of this sculpture.

I use abstract flower shapes as vehicles to get to the heart of the viewer. The work of Lachaise, Nadelman, Marino Marini, Brancusi, and the traditional Inuit carvers have influenced my search.

My paintings are a counterpoint to the three-dimensional work, using color and texture to create inner landscapes. Often I work on sculpture and painting projects simultaneously.