The Soul of a Cowboy
By Hope Holland
On the evening of August 19, the Carroll County Arts Council and internationally renowned wildlife artist and Carroll County resident Bart Walter hosted a preview of his latest work, an amazingly realistic colossal sculpture of a bucking bronco with rider called the “Battle of Wills.” The $15 cost of the tickets to view the statue paled in significance compared to the sight of the statue itself, but was a material benefit for the Carroll County Arts Council as there were well over 80 people in attendance.
The open house format at Walter’s studio offered a friendly atmosphere with lots of room to walk all the way around the immense statue. Because the sculpture will be installed in the traffic circle at the entrance to the Jackson Hole, Wyoming airport, Walter wanted it to tell a different story from different angles. Depending on the view’s vantage point, the rider is either secure in the saddle, … or not. The bronc rider has already lost one stirrup and, according to Walter, “He may not be on that bronc for much longer.” Good thing he will be there eternally in his new niche at the airport once he is fashioned into bronze.
Walter was introduced to the gathering by Sandy Oxx of the Carroll County Arts Council and spoke informally about the process of obtaining the commission from the Jackson Hole Airport Board, and about the technique of creating the statue. Apparently, creating the statue was the easy part! The real challenge was the process for getting the commission, which took some five years and several failed attempts before the committee decided that they wanted a statue of Wyoming’s state symbol... a bucking bronc and rider.
Walter spent a lot of time down in the chutes at several rodeos to see what the life of a rodeo cowboy was like. He was inspired by the men with whom he met, men who could come to work taped back together again after being recently injured and deal with the dangers of their profession with quiet courage.
The numbers that go with the statue lead you to believe that Walter is also a man of courage! The statue is comprised of hundreds of feet of welded steel and rebar, 2,000 feet of wrapped aluminum wire, styrofoam filler and then 3,000 pounds of clay, weighing in at almost two tons. Lots of people come in and help with just getting the clay covering the statue, but then it is down to one person, Walter, all alone, working to realize his vision.
At the end of the presentation Oxx awarded a pair of spurs to Walter’s wife Lynn Walter, who is presumed to need them to speed Walter’s work!
Oxx said that she had never really thought of Walter as a cowboy, but she gave him a very handsome cowboy hat so that he “would look more like a cowboy.”
Walter may not look like a cowboy, but he has the heart and the courage of both the cowboy and the horse!
Editor’s note: If you cannot make it out to Jackson Hole, WY, Walter’s work is easily accessible in Maryland, with public installations at the C. Burr Artz Library in Frederick, The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, Salisbury University, Stevenson University Mustang Stadium, and the Westminster library.