Audubon published “The Birds of America” a portfolio of 435 engravings of 1065 different birds in 1827. By mid-century Audubon’s efforts had expanded into a seven volume set that included “The Ornithological Biography” that he co-authored with Scottish Naturalist William MacGillivray. Audubon’s watercolors and engravings continue to inspire artists.
Sculptor Tony Angell lives and works in the Pacific Northwest where he carves stones and casts bronzes depicting birds, mammals and fish.
“For me Audubon is a giant among artists who took a quantum leap in depicting nature in art. His enormous contribution is unparalleled. That he accomplished so much without modern tools like four wheel drives, cameras, telephoto lenses and other technologies is what I find inspiring,” Angell said recently.
Angell said that since he doesn’t have a studio filled with assistants he uses every means available to move excess stone away from the core image. Angell uses saws, grinders, and chisels, wet and dry sandpaper and whatever else to get to the surface of his image.
“But ultimately it’s up to me to get my hands on it and make that translation. Like Michelangelo who could see the figure in the stone and remove everything down to that final skin, when you get down to that last skin you have to work it with your fingertips. You can’t have a bunch of tools between you and that subtle form. You’ve got to dance around your subject and see it from every conceivable angle, edge and shape. To see what’s happening and bring it forward there can be nothing between your hands and the stone,” Angell said.
Angell said he prefers to work with natural rather than quarried stone because he often sees the final subject in the form of the stone.
Though Angell relies on photographs and reference books for detail he feels the camera has a way of getting in the way of the artist and separating them from the reality of nature and its sensory impact. Angell explained that he gave up his own use of the camera more than 20 years ago.
“I decided that I’d used it as much as I needed to. I can go a lot deeper and do work that has greater dimension by just applying everything that I’ve got. My touch, my kinesthetic, my visual, auditory, olfactory and other senses because that’s what I’m putting into my art,” Angell said.
Thanks to Wesley Pulkka, artist, critic and arts writer for New Mexico and national publications.
Originally appeared in The Wingspread Collector’s Guide to Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque – Vol 19