By Muriel Tissonnier
Dave McGary’s process of creating a bronze is unlike any other. He has dedicated his life to the detail in form and historic content within his bronzes to become a legend among contemporary artists of the American West as the Master of Realism. Creating incredible pieces of art for the rest of us to enjoy.
It all begins with his knowledge and respect of Native American history and culture. McGary has formed life long friendships with several Native Americans he met more than thirty years ago. They have shared their stories and encouraged McGary to use these stories and histories has the subject matter for his work. Dave’s most popular nickname amongst his Native American friends is Spirit Messenger because he is sharing their stories and educating people through his work.
Having become fascinated with the art of casting bronze at a very young age and having the opportunity to study the essentials; anatomy and the ins and outs of casting bronze, with bronze masters in Italy gave him a strong foundation for success. But to be successful in today’s world of art there needs to be innovation. After returning from Italy Dave spent several years working at a bronze foundry, where he was able to develop his own techniques and style. Dave McGary has taken realism within bronze sculpture to a level not seen before.
A McGary sculpture begins with wax. First, he forms a skeleton or armature of wax. After creating a full-unclothed human the complex details and clothing are added. Next, a rubber mold of the figure is taken. That mold is then filled with molten wax. This now wax model is dipped into ceramic slurry, which creates a new mold. The ceramic mold is heated allowing the wax to melt away leaving behind an empty cavity. Molten bronze is poured into the cavity. Once the bronze has cooled, the ceramic shell is removed, exposing the bronze.
The finishing process takes place at McGary’s Studio in Ruidoso, NM. Due to the incredible amount of detail put into one of his sculptures, as many as 160 separate castings are sent from the foundry to the studio in order to create a single bronze. Each bronze is built from the separate castings by welding and eliminating any imperfections. Once the piece represents Dave’s original wax sculpture it is sandblasted to smooth the surface of the bronze.
Color is added to each sculpture through the patina process. A process which uses heat and chemicals to speed the oxidation process, creating shades of color. The process I repeated over the entire bronze section by section.
The most exciting step in the creation of a McGary process is what takes place in his paint studio. This is where Dave has made a name for him self and what has separated his work from the many other western bronze artists. Dave has developed and perfected these painting techniques over the last 27 years. Every beadwork design is unique to its character and is hand painted bead by bead, giving it that incredible sense of realism. The painting process continues to create life like clothing, swords, guns and feathers. Not to forget the Native America Leger drawings on the buffalo robes, telling the story of each warrior’s life and his successes in battle, are all individually painted by hand.
Last, the bronze is sealed and protected to withstand the elements and mounted upon it’s handcrafted base. Now ready to be packed and shipped to collectors around the world.
Dave McGary’s pieces can bee seen at the US Capitol National Statuary Hall, the Smithsonian Museum, the Eiteljorg Museum of the American Indian, the Buffalo Bill Historical Museum and Sorrel Sky Gallery! Just to name a few…