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A Cup…in His Name

Many years ago I was approached by a compassionate ministry organization with the request that I create a new sculpture that could represent their work. My goal was to sculpt a piece that could could tell their story but also represent the story of compassion that is present in every group who is stepping into that hard place.

The motivation for a design can come from many different places.

In the mid 1980s a lot of us remember that the famine in Africa held our attention. Every night on the evening news we saw graphic examples of extreme human need. Speeches were given, money was raised and everyone sang “We Are The World.”

We are the world

Eventually, the images faded and lost their edge,
the money was dispersed, and the song felt old.
For most of us, the memory is dull and the movies
in our mind have long been traded for new ones.

But everyday…somewhere in this world
one scene replays…
as if the author of human suffering
constantly rehearses his dark drama.

Somali-Famine

They’re  always there…
these hands…
reaching

a scoop of rice…a bit of bread… a cup of water…so simple

“And whoever gives to one of these little ones
even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple,
truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”

Matthew 10:42

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA A Cup…in His NameNEW Cup copy

 

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2013 in Sculpture in Community

 

The Sermon in my pocket

Working on military monuments and sculptures, I talk with service members I encounter to learn more about their stories. One of the small details of military culture I’m learning about is the challenge coin. These are special coins given by units or individuals to other service members when they have served together.

Challenge coins

They are presented in a hand shake; few words exchanged; everyone just understands. Everyone in the military knows about the coins and most will always have one close at hand. So, I created a coin to give when I want to express gratitude to a member of our military.

It is received well every time I “coin” someone unexpectedly.

Coin

In my work as a sculptor I am surrounded by people who understand the meaning of service. My sculptures primarily fall into two categories, Military and Faith. So, it seems appropriate that my clients whose service is expressed through their faith should have a coin as well. The most impacting piece I have created for my Faith line of sculptures is “The Calling”; Christ calling Peter to leaves his nets and follow Him. Early on, I thought about this image as appropriate for those who are in full time Christian service. “The Calling” was something I had heard about; growing up the son of a pastor. I now understand that the calling of Christ is for all of us, not only for the ordained.
Calling Coin

“The Calling…my life is my answer” seemed to be the best words to capture the idea that it is more than the moment where I may have said “yes”. It is how I live every day of my life that is really my answer.

On the reverse I placed words to encourage. “Stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” The hands in the center are actually mine; sculpting the clay. They represent two truths. The first is that every day we shape what our lives will become through our choices, the work of hands, and our answer to His calling. The second truth is that we are sculpted by our creator when we allow Him to shape and mold us.
Coin 3 copyCoin 2

My desire for the coin is that we will carry it. Every time you reach for your keys or some change, mixed in with the busyness of the day will be this small bronze sermon. You will be reminded again of His calling and be encouraged to stand firm in the faith; be courageous and strong.

Coin edge
The final detail on the “Calling Coin” is found on the edge; easy to overlook. The words of Isaiah, “Here am I; send Me”, are a simple reminder that we must always remember “The Calling” in every moment, in every encounter, and in every place.

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Masters and Novices

In 1982, Hermine and I lived in Prairie Village, on the Kansas side of the Kansas City metro area. On our summer vacation to Colorado, one afternoon we drove south from Westcliffe to La Veta Pass. My dad entertained us with stories about when his family came over the same pass to do migrant work in the San Luis Valley during the depression in the 1930s.I always felt connected to the Rocky Mountains and his stories welded that connection even stronger.

Our destination was a little town called Cuchara. Colorado.com describes it as “classic Colorado — where snow capped mountains meet lush green fields and rushing rivers. Tucked in the eastern shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this serene town rests between the rich forests of the San Isabel National Forest  and the Cucharas River, which cuts right through town.” Coming from Kansas and the summer heat, it was exactly what we were hoping for.

Mom and Dad and Hermine and I wandered through the shops and into a gallery that was filled with beautiful western art; sculpture and paintings.

Up a short flight of stairs and I stepped into the studio of the artist and sculptor, Gene Stewart.

Immediately, I was captured by his art. But, the biggest gift he gave me that day was how he stopped working and focused on me. I remember he was working on a cowboy and horse. The horse was finished and he picked it up, showed me the wax figure and I was hooked. He explained his tools, the materials and his process. When I said I wanted to try to sculpt, he gave me a list of materials and told me to start, be bold and go for it.That conversation changed everything. I walked out of his studio and told Hermine, “I think I can do that.”

I spent the whole of the next winter season, in my basement, creating my first sculpture. Gene is a western artist. He’s won awards and been published many times. So, of course my first piece would be western too; a cowboy. Before I found my own voice as a sculptor, I borrowed Gene’s.

Today, there is never a moment when I receive a curious question about my work that I don’t think about that summer day in Colorado and the gracious guidance I received.

Gene Stewart; an artist from Oklahoma who changed the course of my life.


 

My friend is a sculptor…Guest Post by Kelley Leigh

When my friend Scott starts to tell a story, a chatty room gets quiet. His stories are witty, drawn out patiently, and worth hearing. He’s like big ole’ Grizzly Adams, Will Rogers, and your favorite cousin, all wrapped together. A few years ago, one of my sons described Scott as a “Santa in Summer.” If that’s true, then Santa lives in a big-timber log house in the mountains and does road trips on a huge yellow motorcycle with his wife Hermine.

People listen to Scott. And, Scott leans in to listen to people. That is probably why he’s so outstanding at what he does. Scott Stearman is a sculptor. He tells his stories in bronze.

Bronze sculptures are timeless containers for our collective stories. What sculptures capture in the present, they continue to speak long into the ages. Bronzes outlive the generations that birth them. They preside over public places and whisper their history into the present. Like no other art form, they withstand the weather of time, and tirelessly ask the future to pause and remember.

Scott’s studio and partner foundry are here in Colorado, but his work permanently stands and whispers in places like universities, city squares, military memorials, hospitals, financial institutions — all over the country.

One of my favorite things about Scott’s work is the layers of detailed symbolism he includes. It’s like playing “I Spy” to find the embedded messages. For instance, one of his military sculpture includes details only a soldier will notice.

  • A wristwatch set to 9:11 as a nod to the New York terrorist attacks.
  • A picture of a soldier’s fiance’ tucked in a helmet.
  • A metal feather taken from Saddam Hussein’s palace — placed on the ground under a boot, in symbol of defeat.
  • A right shoulder empty of gear, and one knee-pad on a right-knee, for a rifleman’s clear shot.
  • A wedding ring quietly speaking it’s promise to someone back home.
  • And his memorial sculpture at US Central Command in FL, places a very real replica of Scott’s Fort Carson model, Sgt. Amy Perkins strategically. She is now standing permanently, looking directly at the name of the fiance’ she lost, killed in Afghanistan.

The stories embedded in his work are rich and varied. And he continues to cover new territory with his sculpture. This is what I wrote, in black Sharpie marker, on a locker door in Scott’s studio:
“In this space, our friend shows us life. When he creates with clay, he makes something from nothing, truth from dirt, beauty from earth and he points us to our creator.”

‘True that.

 

Special Forces Monument

In my home town of Woodland Park, we have a lot of soldiers. The Army’s Ft. Carson is 40 minutes down the pass and we hear often about another soldier from the base who’s not coming home from war.

“Fergy” was a Master Sergeant with the 10th Special Forces Group, a Green Beret. A friend introduced me to his wife and we began to talk about creating a place where Fergy would be remembered. I was invited to attend a ceremony at the 10th Group where they honored the fallen. Names were read and families recognized. At the center of the ceremony they had erected a battle cross; boots, rifle, beret, and dog tags standing straight and silent in their tribute.

We talked about this image and she told me this was how she wanted to honor her husband.

Creating a military memorial is a huge honor and a huge responsibility. I learned 20 years earlier, with my first military sculpture, that the work and detail must be correct. But, more important than just creating an accurate sculpture, I have to tell the story well. I have to take cold, impersonal bronze and mold something that connects with the heart; deeper than mere accuracy in the detail.

So, I sculpted the battle cross as correctly as I could and placed it In the park, in the middle of town on top of a large piece of Pikes Peak granite.

But, his story is presented in the personal. He was serving in the desert when he died, so I created a helmet with desert goggles. I made molds and cast replicas of his dog tags.The 10th Special Forces Group guidon is sculpted so it drapes over the granite base. Military coins were added as if they’d been left there by friends. Fergy’s Master Sergeant stripes, his name patch and his service ribbons were modeled onto the banner.

The sobering truth is that this monument to Fergy will outlive us all. I have to tell his story well to assure that the future will know him. His grandchildren will someday stand here. If my effort was successful, they will see, and feel, and know his story.

 
 

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Dad’s flower boxes

I think I’ll plant flowers this year. It’s an unusually warm time right now up here in the mountains. Even though my studio sits next to a stream that runs year ’round with snow melt from Pikes Peak, I can sit in the sun today in a tee shirt … and it feels good.

I haven’t had flowers on the deck across the stream for two years. My dad’s flower boxes still sit in an awkward stack in the corner of the deck where he left them. I’ve looked at them since he’s been gone and there was always some kind of odd comfort in that lonely picture, reminding me how big the hole is that he left in my heart … and that sadness feels wonderfully awful.

Today would be the kind of day he would have loved; outside preparing the soil in his boxes for the bouquet he would select every year. I remember how he’d tell me about his selection and how these would be the finest flower boxes ever…

Why didn’t I take more pictures? I should have interviewed him and produced a beautiful tribute documentary with nostalgic soundtracks, the wash of the stream and his unforgettable voice and that smile. I was busy…I guess. There would always be time…

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Military Memorials

Gold Star Moms

I received a couple of emails this morning from two Gold Star Mothers. They both watched their sons leave for the war in the desert; both bold and ready and strong. And then … an awful day … he’s not coming home. His presence now is in proud pictures, precious memories, and a folded flag.

They asked about a sculpture to help honor their sons. How am I qualified to step into that place… with them? I’m not. But I will do my best.

Military images should be easy; soldiers, guns, drama. The easy stuff can be found on the walls of tattoo parlors; crazed warriors, muscles bulging, guns blazing, piles of skulls, smoke and fire…

But how do you sculpt honor and dignity and sacrifice? I’m trying to learn. I know that when a mom holds one of my sculptures in her hands and it is supposed to tell her story and her son’s story, I feel the weight of that moment. So, when I’m alone in my studio, shaping the clay in front of me, all those families and fallen soldiers are looking over my shoulder … whispering … so I get the story right.

 

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