The Setapen Portrait, ScarabArt - Amarillo, Texas
Since 1988, Dr. James Setapen had served as the conductor and musical director of the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra. Over the years I had grown to appreciate and admire him as an artist and a teacher.
Dr. Setapen had always had the habit of wiping his brow with his handkerchief after each movement, which I always took as an indicator of the amount of concentration and labor he brought to his conducting. I envisioned a sculpture catching him in what I considered a trademark movement.
I approached Dr. Setapen and he graciously agreed to sit for the portrait. He had been the subject of an earlier oil portrait by another artist and was visibly relieved when I explained that I would work mostly from photographs and two or three very brief actual sittings to "fine tune" the work.
The initial work was done in clay at approximately 80% life size. The hands were sculpted separately. A plaster waste mold was made of the three main elements and the final maquette was cast in vatican stone.
His bow tie was also a separate piece, though much simpler to cast. The eyeglasses were fabricated of wire and epoxy and his conducting baton was formed from a bamboo skewer.
The base is of cherry wood stained with reddish mahogany and ebony.
The work is titled "Love's Labor"
Photographs of the original maquette were sent to the competition but the piece did not make the cut to the 100 semifinalists (out of 4000+ entries). For obvious reasons I do not agree with the judges.....but there you go.
Finally, five weeks before Dr. Setapen's final performance the Board contacted me to ask if I could prepare a bronze casting of the work to present to him during the performance.
Five weeks! (are you kidding?)
I immediately contacted the Allan Houser Foundry in Galisteo, NM who had done previous bronze work for me. Paul Oliver at the foundry graciously agreed to set aside some other orders to accommodate our needs. The maquette was broken down and overnighted to the foundry as I began work on a new, somewhat shorter version of the base.
Finally the finished bronze elements arrived, just three days before the concert! I was very proud to have my work given to Dr. Setapen, though at the same time I was saddened that it was presented as a going away present. It is my hope that the work will repay at least to a small degree the debt I feel I personally owe him for the years of work and talent he shared with our city.