The former auto depot at Boise State University has a decidedly new look and feel these days as the Benjamin Victor Gallery, which also is a working art studio. It’s where Professor of Practice Victor creates bronze and clay sculpture, employs student assistants, develops hands-on learning opportunities that will deepen BSU’s already rich art department and runs a gallery filled with his and other artists’ work. Victor is the only living sculptor with two bronzes in the National Statuary Hall collection in Washington, D.C.
The space is filled with examples of his work, from rough clay sketches to small scale models — called maquettes — and larger-than-life statues of soldiers, first responders and biblical figures. And though there are plenty of beautiful animal sculptures, Victor specializes in the human form, such as the 10-foot Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows sculpture he worked on last week, a commission for a Catholic church in South Dakota.
Victor produces about 10 commissions each year. He has two monuments in Boise: The bronze World War II Airman at the Boise Airport (2009), and a bronze of former Micron CEO Steve Appleton at BSU (2014). Appleton died in a small plane crash in 2012.
Q: How did you discover sculpture?
A: In a Sculpture 1 class in college. I went off to art school in South Dakota (Northern State University in Aberdeen) and sculpted a small figure of a pregnant woman when my wife Julie was about nine months pregnant with our first child. That was about 14 years ago. This little piece just turned out so good. My professors were so encouraging and I took sculpture every semester after. All my other professors hated my student career from then on because everything else was secondary to sculpture. I just loved it so much.
Q: How did you get this gig?
A: They had me come out to Boise State and work on the Appleton sculpture for two weeks. That’s when I met Dr. Kustra. At the time I was Artist in Residence at Northern State University and he became interested in the idea of having an artist in residence here and what it would take to do that. We saw this big, kind of decrepit building that would be ideal for something like this and he made it happen. I’m so excited to be at Boise State. I’d already fallen in love with Boise. I love the Downtown and the arts scene. It’s a good place to be.
Q: What’s your process?
A: It varies, but like for this piece (Mary) I sculpted her up from the nude. I do a mini maquette to get the pose right. Then I sculpted the full-size clay nude and then sculpted the clothes on to that. Then I went to the carving stage. It’s very important not to skip any of these stages. You can see where the clothes protrude in toward the body, it looks lifelike to the viewer because the drapery is touching anatomy underneath. You see the clothing hanging on the body, and when you carve it into stone, you get the illusion that the figure could come alive.
Opera Idaho wrapped its season up with a terrifically funny and beautifully sung production of “The Barber of Seville” at the Egyptian Theatre last month with a winning cast led by Boise baritone Jason Detwiler as Figaro, radiant mezzo soprano Laura Krumm as Rosina and Marcus Shelton as Count Almaviva. Detwiler showed his talent for both comedy and rich vocal performance. Baritone Kevin Nakatani was particularly funny as Basilio. In all, director David Carl Toulson and conductor Dean Williamson created a delightful retelling of Rossini’s comedy.
Here’s the 2015-16 season:
• Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” Oct. 30 and Nov. 1, Egyptian Theatre, 700 W. Main St.
• Verdi’s “La Traviata,” Jan. 29 and 31, Egyptian Theatre.
• Opera Idaho will also present The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players production of “The Pirates of Penzance,” April 1, Morrison Center.
Season tickets: $57 to $170. OperaIdaho.org.
ISF gets going
Idaho Shakespeare Festival company started rehearsals for its 39th season this week at Boise Contemporary Theater. The casts from Cleveland’s Great Lakes Theater, ISF’s sister company, began restaging producing artistic director Charles Fee’s “Dial M For Murder,” which will open the season May 30, and Drew Barr’s “The Tempest,” which opens June 6. You can find out more about the season May 29 in Scene, including what will replace the Fool Squad Greenshows, which actors and directors are returning, who is new and who will play King Lear. Find season ticket information at IdahoShakespeare.org.
Idaho artists show regionally, nationally
• Three Treasure Valley artists — Boise State sculpture professorFrancis Fox
, who has a few pieces in the Victor Gallery, and paintersBonnie Zahn Griffith
andJaki Katz Ashford
— will show their work at the Wallowa Valley Festival of Arts, June 5-7, in Joseph, Ore. Joseph is known for the Valley Foundry. The show started in 1981 to showcase
bronze sculpture. Now it has expanded to include art in all mediums from painting to photography. Find more information atWallowaValleyArts.org
• Meridian artist Kathleen Probst is coming on strong in the fiber arts scene. She will have a piece at “Quilt National 2015,” the 19th biennial quilt exhibition at the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio. Her piece “Blue Veil” will be on display May 23-Sept. 7. Probst also had a piece in the 34th “Quilts=Art=Quilts” at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center in Auburn, N.Y., in 2014. Her piece “Alinea #9,” received a juror’s award.