Sculpting the memorial

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Arizona Sculptor Rusty Bowers is hard at work on his latest project at the Bollinger Atelier Fine Arts Foundry in Tempe.

“I will do drawings and kind of work out the theme with the client and then many times I will do a model, a mockett, in this case,” Bowers said. “I did the trio and I’m about to finish up the double pair.”

Bowers is creating five of the 10 life-size bronze sculptures that will stand in the new Arizona Fallen Firefighter Memorial on the eastern edge of Wesley Bolin Plaza in Phoenix. They will represent professional firefighters, wildland firefighters and paramedics.

“They’re large pieces and I like working big,” Bowers said.

He’s helping to create a memorial to remember the more than 105 known heroes in Arizona who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Bowers said public art is about celebrating.

“We celebrate and people think celebrate, celebrate means to return often to, that’s what it means,” he said. “So we will return often to the memory of the 19 fallen firefighters of Yarnell and we will return often through this memorial to the fallen firefighters across this state.”

Bowers started this journey in creating his sculptures last October.

“They will cast a wax from the model, from the maquette, and we digitize it and they carve it in foam,” Bowers said. “So it looks like the Pillsbury Doughboy who fell in flour and then I finish it. I will do all the undercuts and do all the service texture, all the clay.

“I will work a couple of months on each one and then it goes in to make molds, and they will mold it, cast it in wax, and then they take the waxes and mold them in porcelain and then burn out the wax and then fire the porcelain and then pour in the bronze,” Bowers continued. “They pull off the porcelain, break it off and then clean the bronze pieces and weld them together.”

Bowers said a lot of people are needed to get this process done.

The native Arizonan is well-known for his diverse artistic abilities not only here in this state, but across the country. This includes artwork called the Guardian to honor the officers with the Chandler Police Department.

“I did the heroic-size battalion monument over in San Diego,” Bowers said. “I did some things at our state Capitol building down here, Polly Rosenbaum [sculpture], who got me to run for politics, of all things.”

But for Bowers, he’s just honored to be part of a memorial remembering the men and women firefighters and paramedics, who will continue to be the first ones in.

“We will remember them and their grandkids and their great-grandkids and [they will] say, ‘That is my great-grandfather’s name in that wall,'” Bowers said.

“They will come and touch, hold my sculpture and there will be parts of it where pretty soon the bronze will rub off and I love that and that means kids held it,” he continued.

Bowers believes a sculpture is worthless unless you can touch it.

“My little bit of life was part of a good whole when it comes to this and I think that’s important for a state to be able to say we just don’t remember by throwing something out and we don’t remember by just putting out the sculpture, the firefighters will not let that happen,” Bowers said. “They’re going to be there [at the memorial] ever year.”

Written by Brandy Aguilar, DigitalWire360 –

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