Sunday, April 6, 2008

April Blog; Project Fox continued /Felix de Weldon remembered / Earth day

Avast!!! Project Fox:- "The Voyage of the Fox, the first transatlantic rowing adventure, in 1886, by George Harbo and Frank Samuelsen, a Sculpture work in progress", has been published in large 11" x 17", 22 page format and is also on view and available on my web site:-

Bronze of the Fox

Victor Samuelsen who is based in Greenwich CT and Manhattan is the project coordinator. Victor introduces the Fox project, in the publication, the idea, which caught our collective fancy in July of last year.

We both share a common heritage and love of the sea. When Victor unearthed the little known story of George Harbo, Frank Samuelsen and the Fox,- he thought it would be a good motif for my ongoing Bronzes from the Sea series. We also thought with a little luck and good will "The Voyage of the Fox" in Bronze would be a fitting monument for the home town of both Frank Samuelsen and his distant relative and my friend Victor, both of Farsund, Norway. As we delved into the story of this adventure it grew and became more and more worthy of such a memorial.

The story of the Fox, which I touched on in the March Blog, is about two Norwegian immigrants who, in 1886, decided to take up the challenge of taking a small boat, by oar only, and row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. This type of adventure and daring was a great part of the mid to late 19th century. The American Yacht America in 1851, had challenged the British in a race around the Isle of Wright, winning and beginning the legacy of the Americas Cup. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886, an event witnessed by George Harbo.
John L. Sullivan was the bare knuckle Boxing champion in America, his last fight going over 70 rounds. The promoter of these fights, Richard Fox became the backer of Harbo and Samuelsen's voyage. Everyone was looking for a 'big idea' something which would set them apart and maybe make them rich and famous. Harbo and Samuelsen wanted to become part of this dream and so they set out to build a row boat, outfit it and row from the Battery, in lower Manhattan, to Le Havre, France. Today there are rowing clubs and one of them is even international. People continue to attempt Atlantic crossings by oar alone but still no one has beaten the record set by Harbo and Samuelsen.

Felix de Weldon and Bill Osmundsen, Beacon Rock, Newport, RI, 1984

When I consider developing a monument like The Voyage of the Fox I like to draw from my friendship and mentoring of Felix de Weldon who was perhaps the greatest monument builder of the 20th century. We met in Newport RI during the America's Cup in 1983 when I exhibited my new collection of bronzes featuring a history of the America's Cup. He became an instant friend and supporter of my work. We both share a birth date in April, just a few days apart, so I always think of Felix around this month.

When I met de Weldon he was owner of Beacon Rock, a Newport RI mansion, originally built for Edward D. Morgan, J.P Morgan's cousin. Felix was very humorous and a great story teller, when we lunched in Woodstock, Virginia with several other people and his son Byron, he kept all of us and eventually the whole Waite Staff, in rapt anticipation, of the punch line, of the next story told.
Felix worked at his sculpture, using oil based and water based clay and frequently plaster, in a suit and tie. Rising by 5:30 or 6 AM each morning Felix would come to the studio between 7 and 8 AM after his breakfast which he took in town. During the times I did some work for him he would put me up at Beacon Rock, in a bedroom suite, and after his breakfast, when I was already in his studio, Felix would graciously bring me a smoked salmon on bagel, for my breakfast, without fail.

Felix de Weldon passed away here in Woodstock, Virginia in 2003, he would have been 101 this year. He is most famous for making The Marine Corps War Memorial , near Arlington National Cemetery, which is the massive monument of the taking of Mt Suribachi and the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima.
Here is a link to an interesting verbal history made with Felix de Weldon in 1969 at the Truman Library.

Earth day, earth week;- Everyday should be Earth day!
It took a noble leader who won the Nobel Prize, to wake everybody up. Kudos to Al Gore!
I believe, with a little effort provided by everyone, that this mess we have gotten into, environmentally, is reversible.
I started Eco-Tips, a weekly environmental cartoon, published in the Granite State Extra, while living in New Hampshire, in 1993. The town of Wolfeboro had also planned on adopting the characters of Emerald Moss a frog and his side-kick Half-Shell a clam to bring environmental consciousness to the area. As the years followed, recycling and environmental interest dwindled. The message is not really fun because it makes you do things you don't really want to bother with;- sort of like when your a little kid and you have to quit playing at night and come in and take a bath. But, good habits, like bathing take hold and so will follow recycling, reusing and rehabilitating our habitat.
Happy Earth day,
Bill Osmundsen