The Saratoga Sun -

Going for the bronze

Laura M makes most of July 4 weekend despite cancelled Festival of the Arts

 

Joshua Wood

Patrick Love kneels next to one of his bronze pieces.

Like so many other events throughout the summer that have fallen victim to statewide restrictions due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the 5th Annual Festival of the Arts was unable to take place over the July 4 weekend. 

Though organizer Laura Morrow, owner of Laura M's Gallery in Saratoga, waited as long as she could, a decision finally had to be made.

"We made it about two weeks before the show. I pushed it out as far as I possibly could, hoping that the governor would relax the restrictions a little more," said Morrow. "When June 16 came around and he hadn't, it was just like we've got to call something, let the artists know they couldn't come. Figure out something, if we could do something."

According to Morrow, it was decided that if the Festival of the Arts couldn't take place, then she would hold a small event at her gallery downtown. What Morrow ended up with was three bronze artists showing in her gallery over the Independence Day weekend.

"We picked out Jeff Wolf and Mark Williams and Patrick Love," Morrow said. "Those were the ones that were coming up here and had made reservations. They just happened to be the ones that wanted to come up and we had room for."

While Wolf and Love both do their own bronze work, Williams was there to represent Loveland-based artist George Walbye. All three artists showed a preference for wildlife or western influence and all three came to bronze work through different avenues.

In the case of Love, who had made a career as a dentist, he had always been interested in bronzes but said that he often found them to be outside of his income bracket. He started working in bronzes in 1984.

"I'm going 'Geez, I wonder if I could do that' but I'm a dentist. I actually went to a dental convention and there was a sculptor that was working there and I talked to him for a while, for probably a couple hours," said Love. "I said 'If I come to where you live, would you teach me how to do some of this?' and he goes, 'No.'"

What the bronze artist did do, however, was sell Love some clay and wax. There is a technique used in bronze known as lost-wax casting. In this process, a wax mold is made of a clay sculpture and the mold is filled with molten bronze. The wax mold is then melted and drained away.

"I went home and found out that I had a talent for it immediately," Love said.

The first piece that Love made was a belt buckle with a relief of a Dahl sheep that he sculpted in approximately four hours. Since then, Love has done a number of bronzes ranging from elk to fish.

"I like doing fish the most," said Love. "Just the form of them is totally beautiful. They're all a little bit different, they're not all the same."

Wolf has been sculpting nearly his whole life, having begun at the age of five, and cast his first piece in 1975.

"I'm colorblind, so painting's never been something that I (have done). I paint green houses and brown trees. I can't tell the difference," Wolf joked.

While he has been able to make a full-time job out of his art for the past 30 years, he spent nearly 16 years in the rodeo circuit with half of that riding professionally. While in college  he rode saddle bronc and participated in team roping, his professional career involved bare-back bronc riding and bull riding.

"I did a lot of other crazy things in my youth but I always kept coming back to my artwork because it was something that just pretty much come (sic) natural," said Wolf.

For nearly 22 years, Wolf was involved in doing sculptures for benefits that raised money for causes such as cystic fibrosis or the American Lung Association. The benefits would vary in their approach, but would often involve Wolf sculpting anywhere from an hour to three days with the final product being auctioned.

"I'd raised over $1 million with donating my talent to these benefits. It was pretty fun. You get to meet a lot of celebrities and just really, really great people," Wolf said.

Walbye, at the age of 89, has been doing bronze work for nearly 50 years. Originally from Rawlins, Walbye's grandfather A.A. Harper had homesteaded in Carbon County but Walbye would eventually make his way to Colorado where he worked at the Steads Ranch. Though he had intentions to return to Rawlins, he received a postcard from his mother informing him the family had moved to Loveland, Colorado.

"George moved down there and he's one of the five founding fathers of the Loveland sculpture show down there. He's one of the guys that made Loveland what it is today," said Williams.

Joshua Wood

Jeff Wolf proudly displays one of his western inspired pieces on Friday evening.

In the late-1960s, Walbye was introduced to artist Wolfgang Pogzeba by his brother-in-law. Pogzeba showed Walbye the basics of bronze sculpting. Following that, Walbye began carving using homemade blocks of wax.

"There wasn't a lot of 'This is how you do it' and there was nobody to show him anything," Williams said. "You don't make them out of wax. You make them out of clay. He went a couple years before someone finally told him."

According to Morrow, it was pure accident that the three artists selected to show on July 4 were bronze artists. On the night of July 3, an artist reception for all three appeared to be well attended.

"Having the gallery open and having the artists here, at least there's still culture and you can come see some beautiful artwork in Saratoga," said Morrow. "It's been really nice to see the support of the people coming in and the support of the town."

 

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