Conversations create sculptures - Challenges create sculptures, this one began with conversations and became a challenge from a good friend and collector.
I initially, directed Jim to several sculptors, who create amazing Native American subjects. After purchasing several - he challenged me to explore the subject. Books and orations were exchanged, conversations took place and his only suggestion was to explore my home state of Idaho's Nez Perce tribe. We were both taken with Chief Joseph's orations and story. It took three years, what evolved is three sculptures - this is the first one.
One cannot think of the Plains and Mountain Indians of the West without the horse. They are woven into their life and identity. On one of our journeys while traveling on a two lane highway across reservation land. As we came over a rise, a young boy was riding bare back along the fence line at full gallop. This was a beautiful and amazing sight to see. The ease at which this boy rode as his horse charged forward, that image will stay with me forever.
What evolved was Pure Freedom, a sculpture that expresses; confidence, skill, trust, understanding, relationships, control and spirituality all wrapped up in an adolescent. The posture not just riding with no hands, his arms cast back, eyes closed—a confident—daredevil—free spirit.
The horse large Appaloosa, (no boy with confidence would pick a small horse), which the Nez Perce were noted for with a large body Roman nose and rat tail. The horse is gelded to suggest the Nez Perces selective breeding skills. Something that was not a common practice among the Native Americans. The horse is portrayed in a cantor to express an ease, enjoyment of experience, a love of freedom, and a special bond. The geometric base supports the sculpture, but more importantly is a window to freedom, no hoof touching the ground.
One of the great elements of creating is how happenstance can play such a critical role in bringing a sculpture to fruition. I was struggling with sculpting the young Native American boy. There were few historical photos found in my research. As happenstance would have it I met Shane and his son CJ, the perfect Nez Perce model.
The sculpture represents everything the Native Americans fought and struggled not to lose or sacrifice; Simple and Pure Freedom.
Movement and balance are the primary elements of each sculpture.. The Dance of the Wild Iris is no exception.
The tension between the bird and the blossom (which to appreciate) was chosen after exhibiting in several garden shows. Some viewer's clamored over the blooms missing the sculptures and others trampled the flowers to see the sculptures. The iris and the hummingbird compete for the eye, the thin bending sword leaves create the simply elegant movement within the sculpture.
The glossy (highlighted) shiny, lustrous, polished finish of the hummingbird and the iris are designed to bounce the view's eyes and create tension and simulating movement.
My challenge with this sculpture was to capture a hummingbird in flight without sticking it on a wire or having its beak in a flower. I wanted to capture the essence of movement. Sculpted from the remnants of an old walnut tree, the strength of the hardwood was chosen to capture the delicate nature of the hummingbird's flight.
The movement of the sword leaves of the wild iris lent itself to the ideal support for the hummingbird and its representation of flight. Similar to building a house the foundation and support is essential to the evolution of the final sculpture.
My artistic lines at the base of the piece are intended to move the viewers eyes to the interior of the sculpture so that the natural tendency is to move back out to the flower, sword leaves and hummingbird. Movement and motion are the key words.
Mischief and Plunder has been selected for the 2017 Birds in Art Exhibition at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin. This is the fifth time Ken's work has been selected for this prestigous international bird art exhibition.
It was also recently selected for the Birds in Art national tour. Only 59 of the 100+ works of art are chosen to tour the US. This year, the tour will be exhibited at The Chicago Academy of Sciences, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (December 16, 2017 February 4, 2018); Stamford Museum & Nature Center, Stamford, Connecticut (February 24 May 28, 2018); Cumming Nature Center, Rochester Museum & Science Center, Naples, New York (June 16 August 13, 2018); Newington-Cropsey Foundation, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York (September 4 October 26, 2018); and Las Cruces Museum of Art, Las Cruces, New Mexico (November 20, 2018 January 14, 2019). If you are near any of these cities, we encourage you to attend the exceptional exhibition, the work is by the top bird artists in the world. The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Museum's exhibition in Wausau WI runs through November 26, 2017, admission is Free.
We attended the opening in early September, upon arrival home the Collections Committee was happy to inform us that Mischief and Plunder was chosen to be purchased in memory of their colleague and friend Joe Ruelle, who was the Museums facility manage for twenty years. This is the second time one of Ken's sculpture has been acquired by the museum, we are honored.
Mischief and Plunder
For an artist a simple observation can open a door to that uniquely creative expression. Inspired by simply watching magpies on a snowfield. The concept should reflect the artists understanding of the subject, but more importantly a reflection of their journey.
My journey continues to explore animal attitudes using unique sculptural compositions. Mischief and Plunder depicts three magpie postures that express the possibilities of what may happen when multiple corvids become engaged. The sculpture title Mischief and Plunder was inspired by readings on the Native American culture. Another title was suggested by a friend and patron, which also resonated with me - Moe, Larry and Curly.
Mischief and Plunder is a bronze casting, edition of 11.
The Last Whistle #1/5 purchased by the Jury Foundation of Saginaw, Michigan after viewing it at ArtPrize8 in Grand Rapids and was dedication on August 31st outside of The Saginaw Art Museum. With over 300 community members attending, union representatives and families of skilled labor were treated to lunch donated by Meijers. The first of many Legacy engraved stones purchased by those in memory of their favorite blue collar/skilled labor family members were installed.
Museum Director, Stacey Gannon welcomes The Last Whistle to its new home - The Saginaw Art Museum.
ArtPrize is a 19 day marathon, in which over 400,000 public votes are cast one artist is awarded $200,000. The curators award another $200,000 to an artist and over $100,000 to the top four individual category awards are awarded.
The Last Whistle reached the final 25 in sculpture category and was in the top 100 of 1453 artworks. What an experience!For results visit www.artprize.org
On Sunday (the final day) a Foundation in Saginaw MI purchased The Last Whistle #1/5 at ArtPrize. They visited with us twice and were sure it was the perfect sculpture for Saginaw a factory town with foundries and skilled blue collar workers. They lost over 11,000 jobs during the collapse of the automotive industry and from technology changes (iron/steel products to aluminum parts).
There is revitalization going on in Saginaw, but it is a slow process. The Foundation is creating a committee for design and siting the sculpture in the community, we spent the day touring the town and viewing potential sites for the sculpture.. In the interim, the sculpture was placed on Tuesday at the foyer of The Saginaw Art Museum.
At ArtPrize, the sculpture was approached with reverence and many special moments were shared by the Grand Rapids community and with other visitors to our outdoor venue at Fifth Third Bank/Warner Norcross & Judd Plaza. The first seven days, we encouraged visitors to share their blue collar stories. Some wrote their thoughts down, other chose to share their stories verbally. There were so many we plan to recount them in a book. Men walked up Ken and just shook his hand and thanked him for creating the sculpture, then walked away with tears in their eyes. There were so many emotional conversations, we feel overwhelmed and blessed to share the sculpture with so many people at ArtPrize. Many had no intention of voting, but changed their mind after seeing the sculpture.
On the steel base, we wrote Shared memories keep history and cultures alive and then stenciled the names of the blue collar jobs which were shared on the base. It was so rewarding to see grandparents sharing stories of their parents and grandparents who worked in the trades and explained the sacrifices they made for their families.
Whitney Peckman wrote this about the sculpture:
So glad it's staying in MI - it is such a sensitive depiction of so much - commitment, hard work, fatigue, responsibility, and the honor of providing for your family - all the "old" ethics of our country, so difficult to find evidence of in so much of the country now.
Ken Newman is a nationally recognized sculptor and lives in Idaho. His ArtPrize entry The Last Whistle, a larger than life bronze figurative sculpture, will compete against 1554 artists representing 44 countries and 40 US states submitting 1453 unique entries. There are four artwork categories; 2-D, 3-D, Installation and Time-Based displayed across the three-square mile ArtPrize District in 172 venues.
The Last Whistle symbolizes a historical perspective of generations of men who were instrumental in building wealth and greatness in America. Celebrating the importance of all people; from coal mines and steel mills to Michigan's unparalleled industrial manufacturing which built the American society.
The sculpture represents the iconic Blue Collar laborer of small and large communities across America. Closer to home it reflects the narrowing of the logging industry, as the last whistle blared in Fort Bragg, a place where Ken worked with men of this generation.
The larger than life bronze sculpture was chosen by the Fifth Third Bank/Warner, Norcross and Judd LLP, and will be located near the corner of Monroe and Lyon in downtown Grand Rapids.
The sculpture is currently being cast at a full-service fine art foundry and is undergoing the complicated and labor intensive molding and lost wax casting process to bronze.