Artist unveils 7 clay sculptures of chimpanzees


September 28, 1998|By Lisa Breslin | Lisa Breslin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WESTMINSTER residents Lynn and Bart Walter recently held an open studio party, and the guests of honor were seven life-size chimpanzees sculpted from clay.

Last week, the breathtaking pieces, which weigh as much as 200 pounds, were moved to a foundry in Baltimore, where they will be cast in bronze.

About 60 guests, including representatives from the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education, and Conservation, listened to Bart Walter talk about each creation.

Seven chimpanzees, young and old, crouched inquisitively and stretched majestically on pedestals surrounding the crowd.

"They are amazing," said Mary Lewis, Jane Goodall's executive assistant. "Bart is a magical person anyway, and I had heard his work is powerful. The simplicity, the poses -- like the large chimpanzee with his arms spread. They are all terribly powerful."

Walter's bronze sculpture, "Contemplation," another life-size chimpanzee, rests at the Jane Goodall Institute in Silver Spring, with several smaller works.

The seven chimpanzees unveiled during Walter's studio tour were commissioned by the soon-to-be-constructed Children's Learning Center in Des Moines, Iowa.

Walter said his work on the chimps consumed much time and energy the past five months. After extensive research, which included trips to several zoos to watch chimps, he began sculpting.

He shaped and welded steel bars and aluminum pipes into what are essentially the chimpanzees' "skeletons." Then, working with powdered clay, wax and petroleum jelly mixture, he moved from chimp to chimp, sculpting forms, faces, limbs and fingers over the metal skeletons.

He didn't finish one chimpanzee and then move to another. He concentrated on the gestures each would make and shaped their forms. Then he sculpted their fingers and faces. Walter said he knew it was time to stop when the spontaneity was gone.

"I convey the image I want and then I leave it alone," Walter said. "If I go back after the spontaneity is gone, it shows. Everything is more powerful if creation comes from each spontaneous moment."

After months of kneading and pressing clay, Walter said he could see the chimps' faces when he closed his eyes.

"For a while I thought about making just three more, this time without pedestals," Walter said. "Creating them is like a sporting event. It's very physical -- it was very rewarding."

Awesome 'Annie'

I'd pay more money to watch Friendship Valley Elementary School teacher and mother-to-be Dara Manheim stretch out and swing her gum with the other Boylon sisters (Nancy German-Nazelrod and Kristina Dabbs) again.

They were among the many highlights of September Song's 25th anniversary production of "Annie."

"The girl who is playing Annie [Ashley Tompakov] really lip-syncs well," said one of the children who joined me at a Saturday matinee, not realizing that Ashley was singing.

Ashley, who has been a guest soloist at Constitution Hall in Washington, sang so well it was hard to believe we weren't listening to a recording.

Since that Saturday show, I've heard about the long rehearsals and the dedication of the cast, crew, director Mo Dutterer and producer Hal Fox.

The show was a polished, entertaining production.

The sets, the music, the singing, the adorably talented orphans and the other actors (including Alyeska, the dog who played Sandy) created a show that outshone other productions.

Two weekends and five performances -- for as many as 800 people a show -- earned more than $40,000, which will be used to pay bills and then be divided between CHANGE Inc. and Carroll County Therapeutic Recreational Council, which serve individuals with developmental disabilities.

"We should net $15,000 to $20,000 to help those organizations," Fox said. "The whole show was such a community effort. The Lutheran Brotherhood, Coffey Music, countless businesses, plus the teachers, business people, nurses, firemen, students, custodians, secretaries, homemakers, bankers and so on who made up the cast, crew and production staff perfectly represent the Carroll County community."

The community looks forward to next September when September Song returns.

Lisa Breslin's Central Carroll neighborhood column appears each Monday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

Pub Date: 9/28/98

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