Dayton sculptor’s bronze fleshes out Eagles tune on Arizona corner
Ron Adamson was stepping into some new territory when he accepted a commission to give a face and body to the fictional singer of the Eagle’s song, “Take It Easy.”
Several residents of Winslow, Ariz., wanted to capitalize on the community’s mention in the song, so they ordered a life-sized bronze statue to place on a corner of the old Route 66.
Adamson, now living in Dayton, was in Gardnerville and had created his own foundry in his rented garage. Once the Winslow group approved Adamson’s concept for the statue, he set about the project.
Some two years, 46 individually cast parts, a home-made 55-gallon foundry, a couple of all-night welding sessions and a marathon delivery trip later, Adamson delivered the corner musician to Winslow on Oct. 11, barely 90 minutes before the display opened to the public.
“I’ve been sculpting for nearly 30 years, doing my own bronze casting and all, but this was my biggest bronze. It stands 6 feet, 2 inches tall,” Adamson said last week.
“I had to make a larger foundry out of a 55-gallon drum and refractory cement so it was big enough to hold the boots and the legs up to the knees. I use the blower on an old Electrolux vacuum cleaner to force the air into the thing.”
Adamson uses a number steps involving clay and wax originals, plaster and rubber molding compounds, steel roads and more wax to turn his ideas into bronze statues. His Web site, http://www.ronadamson.com, has a series of images showing how the original is reproduced in cast bronze pieces that are welded together for the final statue.
“It took about eight pourings to cast all the 46 pieces. Then there’s a lot of grinding and other finishing before you weld it together,” he said.
“After it’s together, there’s still welds to grind. And the patina is created by applying a chemical solution and heating the bronze with a blowtorch.”
He said that, because the promised use of a commercial foundry fell through, he lost a month during the two-year project while he built his own. The final welding and grinding took place during an almost continuous 48-hour period in September just before delivery was expected.
“My neighbor’s son, Josh Ricketts, came over and he did a lot of the grinding towards the end. I got the patina burned on and the sculpture didn’t have much chance to cool down before we loaded it into Greg Rickett’s truck at 1 p.m. Sept. 10,” Adamson said. “The thing was still so hot I burned my forearms on it when it shifted as we were loading it.”
He said a two-hour pause at Laughlin was the only sleep he got on the way to Winslow. Immediately on arrival, he helped set the statue in cement on the street corner and it was time to show it off.
The Winslow volunteer group that commissioned the sculpture and the painted mural behind it is financing the project by selling smaller bronze versions of Adamson’s work.
Adamson had been selling some of his bronze and wooden sculptures through galleries, but mostly he drove to weekend art shows throughout the country from his native Montana.
“At one point I bought a new van and put 12,000 miles on it in three weeks,” he said.
“I’d bring my wood with me to the shows and, once I was set up, started carving, just sketching on wood.
“I’d do a wood carving in 30-60 minutes and have the show folks auction it off immediately. That got me lots of attention from the media,” he said.
His work earned attention on its own, garnering a number of show awards. He started off with western themes, but Adamson said the number of collectors or traditional western art – such as works by Russell and Remington – has fallen in recent years. Adamson tends toward wildlife subjects these days.
His most honored sculpture, a bronze of a Canada goose, is on display at the Blue Moon Gallery in Gardnerville. He said he only displays at four galleries now – the Blue Moon, two in Oregon and one in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
“I’m also down to just four high-quality art shows a year,” he said.
Another difference in his life it that Adamson is getting a regular paycheck for his artistic talents. His move to Dayton was prompted by a job at the Medallic Art Co. there.
Adamson said a report the musician’s body was modeled after his son is not necessarily true – “I was just trying to do a young man.
“But the face, when I was doing it, started looking familiar as I worked on it,” Adamson said.
“The face ended up looking like my father, Ron Sr., when he was a lot younger, probably because it was a face I was so familiar with.
“I noticed it after I got to Winslow with the statue.”
“This is the first time I’ve been hired to do my art. I just finish making a Peabody Award that will be presented to Maria Shriver,” he said.