Artist Brian R. Owens Brings Windover Woman to Life

Today we’re featuring a story about a Florida artist, Brian R. Owens.

On November 13th, a newly revised exhibit opened at the Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science in Cocoa, FL, about one of the first groups of people in North America. The accidental discovery of a ceremonial burial ground in 1982 resulted in the unearthing of one of the largest and most well-preserved skeletal sites on the continent. The excavation reshaped our understanding of “archaic hunter-gatherers” and how they lived 7000 to 8000 years ago, about 3000 years before the “Great Pyramid”. They are called “Windover People”. Research is constantly ongoing as new technologies emerge to analyze the remains of 168 people. Over 10,000 bones and artifacts are preserved at Florida State University. The Museum commissioned Brian R. Owens to sculpt an artistic interpretation of one particular female based on her skull. It’s the centerpiece of the new exhibit. They call her the “Windover Woman”.

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Computer-generated image based on the bones of the Windover Woman

CBF: What did you have to work from?

Lots of detailed measurements of her skull but not the skull itself. I also had some computer-generated images that were made years ago on the basis of the skull. The remains included DNA but it’s so damaged that it is of little use. At least for now. Archeologists generally agree that she was descended from Asians.

CBF: How is an artistic interpretation different from a forensic sculpture? Continue reading

Video Postcard from: The Florida Sculptors Guild and “From Start to Finish”

by Tim Storhoff

Recently, Florida artist Brian R. Owens created this video of a sculpture exhibition at the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens and shared it with the Culture Builds Florida blog. The show entitled “From Start to Finish” took place last year and featured the work of the Florida Sculptors Guild, which aims to be the “go to” place for all things sculptural in the state.

The sculptures presented in “From Start to Finish” can be seen in the video below, which Owens and edited. He describes the exhibition as follows:

The title of the show embodies its theme. Each sculpture was accompanied by a printed description with photos of the process used to create it. The methods and materials of sculpture are diverse. Materials included bones, paper, fired clay, plastilina, bronze, plaster, ceramics, steel, stone, wood, fabric and wood branches. Methods varied from direct modeling (which is how I made my piece) to more complicated processes such as “lost wax” bronze casting. Pieces varied greatly in size. The intent of the sculptors varied as well. Marla E’s playful work included a sign inviting people to touch and rearrange it. Linda Brant’s work flows from deeply held beliefs about our relationship to other forms of life. The exhibit space was small but this shortened the distance between the viewer and the work, making the experience more intimate, less formal. The work was good and the presentation unusual. This may be why curator Rachel Frisby reported that the show was more than well received. It was a hit!

I asked Owens to discuss the current status of sculpture as an art form in Florida and what role the Guild plays in promoting it.

When you say “sculpture in Florida” my mind hears it as “opportunities to do sculpture commissions in Florida in the immediate future and be paid properly.” Such opportunities appear to be rare. I can only see things from my perspective and I don’t have a birds-eye view of the State, but it is possible to manage without one. The Guild is diverse so I’m speaking for myself when I say I consider Florida as my backyard and this time zone as my neighborhood. Florida may be in its infancy as a market but I’m working on my first transatlantic commission, albeit a small one. Systems that worked for me before, such as gallery representation, are now just another tool in my tool box.

The ability to share sculpture through film is an additional tool that Owens plans to use moving forward. “Given the unusual space and the lush surroundings, the decision to make a movie was an easy one,” he said. “Getting it done was a bit harder than I thought. I had to borrow a camera, build some gear, learn how to use apps and find music to license.” The video documenting this exhibition was designed for YouTube and small screens, but Owens says the next movie will be in high definition.

The Florida Sculptors Guild was established in 2008 and was the brainchild of Amy Wieck and Linda Moore. Wieck explained, “Our mission is to enrich, include and educate our community about the sculptural arts. We provide emerging and established sculptors the space, education, exposure, and connections they need for artistic, creative and professional advancement.” The Florida Sculptors Guild is a valuable resource for anyone wishing to purchase a sculpture by connecting them with its professional members.

You can find the Florida Sculptors Guild on Facebook or at floridasculptorsguild.com. You can learn more about Brian Owens and his artwork at brianowensart.com.

Spotlight On: “La Florida,” The Florida Artists Hall of Fame sculpture

by Tim Storhoff

Induction into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame is the highest honor bestowed upon creative individuals by the state of Florida. When three artists are inducted into the Hall of Fame on March 20, they will have a plaque in their honor added to the Florida Artists Hall of Fame Wall on the Plaza Level in the rotunda of the Capitol Building and receive a sculpture of La Florida by Florida sculptor Enzo Torcoletti.

Enzo Torcoletti with his most recent "La Florida" sculptures. Photo taken and used by permission of Tim Storhoff.

Enzo Torcoletti with his most recent “La Florida” sculptures. Photo taken by Tim Storhoff.

The state legislature established the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 1986 and sought someone to produce the award that would be given to inductees. The following year, Mr. Torcoletti was contacted about the project and began working on potential designs for the sculpture.

Enzo Torcoletti was born in Italy and began studying art there before moving to Canada. He received a B.A. in English literature in 1968 and a B.F.A. in sculpture and printmaking in 1969 from the University of Windsor. He then came to Florida to continue his studies, and in 1971 received his M.F.A. in sculpture from Florida State University. He then taught sculpture, drawing, and art history at Flagler College in St. Augustine for years, and is now an Emeritus Professor. For the last forty years, Enzo has actively produced sculptures for exhibits and commissions.  His work has been shown extensively and is included in numerous private and public collections in Florida, across the U.S., and abroad. He now splits his time between his homes in Florida and Tuscany.

When he was selected to make the sculpture that would be given to Florida Artists Hall of Fame inductees, he began making sketches followed by more in-depth drawings. In coming up with his concept, he decided that it should be something unique to Florida. He wanted it to be semi-abstract but incorporate the female form, because when Juan Ponce de León named the land he used the feminine word La Florida. The feminine form is also representative of the Muses that according to Greek myth provide inspiration for the arts.

A preliminary drawing for a sculpture by Enzo Torcoletti. Photo by Tim Storhoff.

A preliminary drawing for a sculpture by Enzo Torcoletti. Photo by Tim Storhoff.

"La Florida," the Florida Artists Hall of Fame sculpture by Enzo Torcoletti.

“La Florida,” the Florida Artists Hall of Fame sculpture by Enzo Torcoletti. Photo courtesy of Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.

Enzo also wanted it to evoke the water and beaches associated with our state, so he chose to include elements of waves and to make it look partly like skeleton of a shell you might find after a storm. The spiral at the top of the sculpture, when viewed from above, is  like the eye of a storm during a hurricane. Enzo carved the initial model for the sculpture out of wax and then created a rubber mold before the final bronze casting using the lost-wax method. The base is made of Florida limestone resulting in a heavy and substantial award given to inductees. The original maquette prototype is on display in the Twenty-Second Floor Capitol Gallery in Tallahassee.

All of Florida’s artists contribute to our vibrant and diverse communities and show that this is a special place to live and work. We are pleased to honor those who have made the greatest contributions to the arts in Florida with this beautiful sculpture. The 2013 inductions to the Florida Artists Hall of Fame will take place during the Florida Heritage Month Awards on March 20. The award ceremony will take place in Tallahassee at Mission San Luis, Florida’s Apalachee-Spanish Living History Museum. This year’s Hall of Fame inductees include performer Gloria Estefan, singer/songwriter Frank Thomas, and painter Laura Woodward. This will make fifty-five artists who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame since the first ceremony in 1987. Other awards to be presented at Mission San Luis include the Florida Folk Heritage Awards, the Secretary of State’s Historic Preservation Awards, and the Florida Book Awards. To learn more about Florida Heritage Month, please visit http://www.floridaheritagemonth.com.

To learn more about the lost-wax method of creating a bronze sculpture, check out this video from artist Brian Owens who used it to create the St. Augustine Foot Soldiers monument: