"Sheltering the Creative Spirit"

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Taos, New Mexico USA



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      Sculpting a Portrait of Frank Waters

                                                by Mark Rossi


Frank’s smile always was a full expression of positive greeting.  His eyes twinkled; his face lit up.  He was called “Aspen Son,” and I think his smile resembled waves of yellow aspen leaves sparkling Mana-size particles of Sun light.  Sometimes I see this in the bronze casting of Frank’s face, even though I sculpted it to show him in what I thought of as a contemplative mood.

I worked with earth-green Roma Plastelina in the living room of the Waters’ Tucson home during afternoons while Frank sat and read.  No formal posing took place.

The full three-dimensional portrait has his signature and thumb print cast on its back panel.  We formed a piece of clay around his right thumb pad and laid it on the back panel.  Frank took a pencil and wrote directly into the clay.

Later, we made simple plaster molds of Frank’s hands as separate items.  We did this on the kitchen counter and used a butter knife out of the silver drawer somewhere in the process.  


About 1988, during an afternoon in my Tucson studio while I was melting wax in the kitchen with a new assistant, the mold of Frank’s portrait opened at all its seams.  Molten wax spilled over the floor, a demonstration of what will happen when the mold is not properly wrapped, and a happy discovery of the piece we now call Frank’s Mask --an impression from the single center segment of the mold that is anchored in petrified wood after the bronzing process.  


My bronze plaque for the Taos Public Library is another newly devised way to present a sculpted portrait of Frank Waters.  This time added to his mask are his own words, along with two objects special to him: an eagle feather and a drum stick, reminding one of the big drum -- “an Indian piano” Tony Reyna calls it -- in the front room of the Waters’ Arroyo Seco home, as well as the drum beats in Frank’s writing. 

And we are attuned to the matching rhythm in our own hearts as we mirror his Sun smile.

(Librarian Judith Bronner read this piece in the Taos Public Library’s Southwest Room at the plaque presentation in August 1997.  A limited number of Frank’s bust, Frank’s Mask, the hand bronzes, and the plaque are for sale through the Frank Waters Foundation ( See Store, this Web site or CLICK HERE to view now).

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