Friday, December 7, 2012

What happened with Frank Gehry on the Eisenhower Memorial

Last summer I visited the Lincoln Memorial for the first time in several years. I was struck by how visceral my reaction was. I walked into the shady, temple-like structure and I instantly felt at peace. I was uplifted. I felt like I belonged to something bigger than myself.

The powerful, gravity-hewn figure of Lincoln, surrounded by the beauty of the architecture, did its job. A monument must transform and uplift the visitor; it must impart to him a feeling of power and potentiality, of what can be. At that moment, I was proud to be an American sculptor who belonged to a tradition of grand importance.

Shortly thereafter, I received an email asking me to phone Gehry Partners ASAP. I was, again, deeply moved. It could not be an accident that I received this call so soon after my experience with the Lincoln memorial. I felt that I was in sync with my purpose in life. The sculptures that I would make would not only represent Eisenhower as a man of tremendous achievement, but would also represent our country at its best. I felt that I had spent almost thirty years, and tens of thousands of hours in my studio, to reach this moment. I had never followed the fads of the art world, but instead worked to create an art that was connected to the rich tradition of classical art, but had the dynamic, expansive energy of America. My art has always been a statement about our highest potential as human beings—about rising to the occasion.

On August 10th, I was flown to L.A. to see the project plans for the Eisenhower Memorial and to meet with Frank Gehry.

When I saw the memorial models, my heart sank. The project was trying to reinvent the wheel with newness, and it was missing the point entirely. Components were stiff and compartmentalized like a natural history museum exhibit. There was no focal point, but a lot of elements that did not work together to deliver a unified visual message.

How could I tell the famed Gehry that the design and sculpture of this project had to lead our world and to direct us towards our potential? The sculpture must serve as a focal point in a sacred space that transforms the viewer, just as Eisenhower transformed the world through his actions as a leader. Perhaps Gehry was unaware of what could be.

My first question to Gehry partners was: Did you bring me in to be your in-house sculptor, or are you asking me for my creative opinion and 30 years experience as a figurative sculptor? They replied that they were basically unhappy with their current design and that they wanted to know what I thought.

I was thrilled. I thought of the Lincoln Memorial and the sacred space with its elevated energy.

After lunch, we began the meeting with Mr. Gehry himself. I shared my thoughts.

I spoke of the need for a sense of hierarchy within the sculptures of Eisenhower surrounded by his troops. The format should be changed to a relief, in which Eisenhower is the dramatic focal point, which is accomplished in several ways. In a relief, the use of perspective creates depth, and ultimately scale, within the composition. Eisenhower would be sculpted in the foreground in high relief, almost in the round. The troops would be situated farther away, smaller, and in lower relief.

Eisenhower would not only stand out as more important, he would also be more luminous. He would spatially project out more and catch more light. The values of light falling on this part of the composition would create a clear hierarchy and focal point. He would be part of the men, and he would also stand out as their leader. Working extemporaneously with a partner, I created an ad-hoc composition that opened up the central space, eliminating a giant tree that stood in the center and blocked the view of the sculptures. I cut wood blocks that took a horizontal composition and made it vertical.

I stated in the meeting that the design had to become sacred, because of Eisenhower’s historical importance. Making the blocks vertical would lead visitors to look up, giving them an expansive feeling. They would also be able to read the writing about Eisenhower with a sense of elevation, because of the heightened perspective.

Within this quickly constructed design, the relief is attached to one vertical block, and opposed on the other side of the piazza by a similar block, in front of which would stand the solitary figure of President Eisenhower. The president is elevated on a pedestal of five feet. The scale of the figure would be 9-10 feet in height. The relief would be approximately 18 by 11 feet.

The architecture would create symmetry and tie these two different sculptures together. The symmetry would leave the visitor with a memorable, visceral experience.

I stressed to Mr. Gehry and his team that there needed to be a sense of monumentality, yet the sculptures still had to feel human. I mentioned the Houdon sculpture on Wall Street as an example of the refined, yet intimate character that the free standing sculpture of Eisenhower needed. Mr. Gehry said, “I like it. I see what you are trying to do.”

We talked for another hour, coming to the arrangement that I would receive funds from the GSA to make these two models, the relief and the figure, which would then be presented to all the committees. The meeting ended with Mr. Gehry saying, “This has been a great meeting and we are really happy.

I was instructed to submit a proposal with numbers to procure funds for my work. I was specifically instructed to make the numbers adequate for my needs, that is, to raise them from my initial ballpark figures. I did so and submitted a document. I was told that they wanted me to get started right away, and they would get GSA to release funds the following week. 

Several weeks passed. I waited with growing confusion, as I had been explicitly told that I was Mr. Gehry's first choice. I submitted two more documents concerning pricing.

On November 16, I received a phone call from the team at Gehry Partners saying that, stylistically, I would not be selected for the project. I am puzzled.

Moreover, I am disappointed. I was inspired and excited to be able to use my talents to create a work to honor one of our greatest presidents. Needless to say, stylistically, my work would have been created in form and finish appropriate for a presidential memorial.

I was never given a chance to show my sculptural skills in an honest competition. Things were decided with the submission of paperwork, and perhaps, with behind-the-scenes political concerns in mind.

I am a visual artist, so my art is first and foremost visual, not written. It is unfortunate that I had been judged by a verbal proposal.

My dream had been to create timeless art in a transformational space. When I lived in Rome, I walked into the Piazza of the Campidoglio and I immediately felt different. I was struck by the central sculpture of Marcus Aurelius, uplifted and regal on a pedestal. The simplicity of what had been designed by Michelangelo was a template. I envisioned Eisenhower both as a statesman, exemplifying the contemplative life, introspective in thought, and Eisenhower as a soldier, exemplifying the active, expansive life. These striking images of a hero who leads a nation through transformation would serve to inspire viewers and to show what we, as a nation, can be. The memorial would have been designed for the benefit of the people.

In the end, I am writing this piece not because of my own disappointment, but because I feel the needs of the people and the nation are not being served by the discordant vision imposed on the memorial. I am arguing for quality--that's why I am posting these words.

Sincerely, Sabin Howard

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The New York Optimist

Wanted to share a new post ( COPY AND PASTE):

Sunday, October 14, 2012


The New Video filmed by Mark Forman with original music by Jan Carter, returning art to its sacred space:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why I decided to be a sculptor

What made you decide to be a sculptor?

I grew up in the visual splendor of Italy surrounded by beautiful art juxta posed with the urban hotbed of ideas that New York City was in the 60's and 70's..My childhood was a marriage of traditional beauty and modern concept of self expression.. Both my parents were PHD.s so I was expected to go that way as well.. Well as a rebellious teenager I followed my parents in Italy from one cultural sight to the next, and so it slowly creeped into my soul that art was something of immense grandeur full of grace and nobility.. It was a world that aspired to the divine or sacred exemplifying man as the best that he could be. I knew that art was something that was a learned skill that left a viewer mesmerized by it's power. On October 19th at exactly 4PM. lightning struck. I had just been hired at a cabinet makers shop in South Philly (Guido Central) on Monday , and now it was Thursday.. I couldn't take it any more. My parents were right. I was not using my god given gifts. Specifically my brain. I strode over to the boss and stated succinctly," I quit!".. His response was," What'du mean, you quit?.. I just hired you.. Well I 'm not going to pay you." My response was," Ok well what do you owe me 42 dollars!".. I headed out the door and stopped at the nearest phone booth. I called my Dad.. I remember the conversation going like this: " I want to go to art school". My Dad's response was: " How long is this going to last."
The next call was to the Philadelphia College of Art. " Could I please speak with admissions".. Once I got on the line with a lady I asked," I want to go to art school. What do I need to do?" The response was,"Well you need a portfolio".. " What's a portfolio?".. And that was the beginning. After our meeting as to the suggestions of the admissions lady, I went directly to Foxes Bookseller on Walnut Street, and purchased DRAWING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF HE BRAIN, Betty Edwards. The next ninety days were an epiphany!.. I drew ever night after a full day of construction work. After those ninety days I had ninety drawings. I marched back to the admissions lady one night after work, and dropped the stack of drawings in front of her.. She started leafing through them. I asked what do you think. And she replied "You'll get in".. "How do you know", I responded. She stopped, looked up at me, and said," Because I'm the director of admissions!"

I ended up at the best school in the country to learn how to draw and sculpt the figure in Renaissance manner. My teacher, Walter Erlebacher had studied at the Bauhaus school in Germany and at some point when he came to this country decided to re-invent a system of anatomy directly out of the 1500's except it was completely modern in it's ideology. I had asked on that October afternoon to become a  modern renaissance master, and the universe had responded..

What artists have most influenced your work?

When I started making art, I always had books with me. Everywhere I went I had a book under my arm. I had every Michelangelo, and Leonardo book I could get my hands on. I aspired to make art at this level, and emulated these masters with a cult like persistence!... As years went by my own soul and experience started to creep in, and my greatest influence became the energy I had experienced as a child in Italy. I realized that I made art because I wanted to be elevated by the same feelings I had when I stood under the porticos in the piazzas of Torino holding my grandfathers hand. Looking up at the Baroque church steeples surrounded by an azure blue sky left it's imprint on me. Art is sacred to me and connects me to something way larger than myself. That's why I sculpt.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

SABIN HOWARD Contemporary Sculpture with the Soul of the Ancients Review by Grady Harp

Contemporary Sculpture with the Soul of the Ancients
Review by Grady Harp
And so each venture is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate, with shabby equipment always deteriorating in the general mess of imprecision of feeling, undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer by strength and submission, has already been discovered once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope to emulate- but there is no competition- there is only the fight to recover what has been lost and found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions that seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss. For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.
T.S. Eliot

Time, memory, resilient determination, passion for antiquity, and an independent spirit have been the accompanying muses for the creative flow of life submerged in art of Sabin Howard. While other artists may elect to quote some isolated aspect of previous periods of art in their striving to find a unique voice, a novel statement for which they will be recognized, remembered, Sabin Howard has always been consumed with his adoration of the sculptures of past civilizations – our cultural heritage too often visually discarded as historicity, a thing to know, a page in the progress to where we now stand. But his brilliantly conceived heroic sculptures emerge from his years of preparation that have brought him to the enviable status as a solitary move onto the plinth of the important sculptors of the human body of today. His classically inspired sculptures are not recreations but rather touchstones that represent his profound concern for his fellowman. In Sabin Howard’s words, ‘The body is a mirror of the mind. It’s not separate. When you look at a figure, the pose, the morphology—that all dictates a narrative about an individual psychology.’
Howard is a man of two worlds. Though he grew up in New York City, many of his childhood summers were spent in his mother’s home of origin in Torino, Italy, and that dichotomy of atmospheres – the hustling, ever changing chaotic need for things new that informs New York City was balanced by the splendor of the gentle, memory saturated moods of timeless Italy. The son of academic parents, he was exposed to museums early on but it was his time spent in the Medici Chapel in Florence, Italy where he came under the influence of the great works of Michelangelo and Bernini. He studied at the Philadelphia College of Art receiving his BFA in 1987, the Tyler School of Art in Rome in 1986 and 1987 where he was apprenticed to Paolo Carosone, and the New York Academy of Art receiving a MFA in 1995. He taught at both of the American schools for twenty years before devoting himself to his own work in his massive studio in Brooklyn. ‘I wanted to surround myself with the same beauty and grandeur that made me feel like I belonged to something greater than myself. When I am working in my studio surrounded by my sculptures, I have the same energetic feel that I had as a child looking out across the piazzas of Milan and Turin – one of serenity, grace, and power.’
As Howard’s meticulous eye for detail continued to develop, so did his ability to master the various tools of the art of sculpting. He works from direct observation of the live model, but often in his preparation drawings and early clay molds he mixes parts of various models’ bodies to achieve the effect he envisions. His studio houses armatures of steel bars forming a stick figure to which he applies Styrofoam to begin the shape and then molds his creations in plastiline clay. From clay he concentrates on the details his art illuminates, shaping and forming the sensuous appeal he views to be an ideal human form of sinews and curves, arriving at a metaphysical realism that edges towards abstraction: ‘I use design systems based on vortices and spirals. Those are ways energy travels through the bodies.’ His process is also additive: ‘The human body is based on a convex system where everything is pushing outwards from an internal pressure. So if this pressure is recreated in sculpture, you are actually showing the internal pressure of a human being: the spirit and the soul.’ A plaster cast is made, one of many parts that will allow the transformation of the perfect clay mold to the final stage at the foundry where the intensive lost wax method is used to form the final bronze stage of each work. For those unfamiliar with this complex method, it can be summarized as follows: First, the clay figure is covered in rubber and a hard outer shell. This forms a mold. Then wax is applied inside the mold, which is removed and reused, while the positive wax figure that results is covered in a ceramic shell. The wax inside this shell is melted away in a burnout kiln, and liquid bronze is poured in the void. Once the metal hardens, the shell is chipped away, and the resulting bronze statue is covered in an oxidizing glaze and finished by hand. And as the completed bronze sculpture finally emerges it must be brought to life by extensive patina work. The Pygmalion process takes countless hours of labor, but the art of Sabin Howard is an act of passion, solitude, devotion, and commitment – the evidence is the degree of perfection his works represent.
!SABIN HOWARD: Contemporary Sculpture with the Soul of the Ancients!
Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.
George Bernard Shaw
Some may view his works and ask why he is recreating images from the ancient past, from the mythological characters that subsumed Greek and Roman and the great Italian masters of the medium. And while he does create images of Apo"o, Aphrodite, Mars and H ermes these are not replicas of the famous forms of the past, rather they are mythological ideas expressed in contemporary rarefied air that gives them a palpable presence of reality. His integument surfaces are not smooth and polished marble, but instead call forth a resemblance to the texture of skin that is real. Underlying muscles are anatomically defined without becoming academic. His other works deal with classically informed but contemporary settings for the concepts of Anger, Armor, S tubbornness and Persistence, Man, Eros, Ego, Satori (after Michelangelo’s ‘Day’), Mindfulness, and R eclining Figure. ‘My work gravitates toward order and harmony and the world making sense. First I learned the techniques required to create a renaissance figure: now I work beyond that to make studies that probe our human condition.’
Sabin Howard may take 2500 hours or more to move a figure from an initial concept to a finished bronze statue. Views of his studio with the artist at work conjure thoughts of the peak of the Medici times when art graced all things public and private and sacred. Sabin Howard references the past with reverence, but at the same time he has bought the splendors of another era into the soul of the present. His technical genius is astonishing, his spirit indomitable, and the art that comes from his mind and hands and body is transporting. As the New York Times commented, ‘Sabin Howard, a sculptor of immense talent, has created some of the last decade's most substantive realistic sculpture. When viewing his works, visitors may be reminded of the time when Donatello and Rodin walked the earth.’

Sunday, June 24, 2012

32" apollo and life size apollo

I've now worked on the miniature for approximately 1500 hours and it has a jewel like quality that only a sculpture of this scale can have. The detail gives it a sense of intimacy acknowledging the sacredness and intricacy of the human body. I've rotated the pelvis and ribcage just a little more than the life-size creating more movement. The arm reaches forward just a little more and the foot pushes off with greater force. This figure is walking off the base. In some ways this piece has to be even more beautiful than the life size because at this scale sculpture soars or crumbles in precision!

Sunday, June 3, 2012


5.0 out of 5 stars The Art of Sabin Howard as Shared by Traci L. SlattonMay 24, 2012
This review is from: The Art of Life (Paperback)
In the event the reader does not know the name of Sabin Howard - yet - slowly absorbing this rather wondrous book, a collaboration between sculptor Howard and his wife, writer Traci L. Slatton will invade your psyche, not only because the art here reproduced so generously is so hypnotic, but also because of the team approach to the title THE ART OF LIFE simply works so well. According tot he requisite biographical data, Sabin Howard grew up in New York City and in Torino, Italy. He studied art at the Philadelphia College of Art and then earned his MFA from the New York Academy of Art. For twenty years, he taught at the graduate and undergraduate levels. He has been elected to the board of the National Sculpture Society. He has received numerous commissions and has showed his work at more than fifty solo and group shows. After 45,000 hours of working from life models in the studio, he is the creator of three heroic scale pieces, HERMES, APHRODITE, and APOLLO, as well as many smaller pieces. His works are owned by museums and private collectors all over the world, and they have been favorable reviewed by The New York Times, American Artist, Fine Arts Connoisseur, American Arts Collector, and The New Criterion, as well as several foreign journals. He is the author of the book THE ART OF LIFE with his wife author Traci L. Slatton.'

Of significant importance is not only the pleasure of seeing over 100 reproductions of Howard's art, in drawing form (he is an exquisite anatomist), plaster, clay, and bronze, but to hear the interplay between sculptor and writer explaining the history of the art of sculpture, the ties to the representational figurative art of the masters Michelangelo, Bernini, Canova, Donatello, Giambologna, and Rodin, in manifestation of the spirit of man as seen in the bronze reincarnation of the corporeal form, and in the seven chapters into which the book is arranged we are invited to explore A call to Beauty, The Foundation Supports everything, Education brings freedom, An Artist's body of work is his biography, The daily grind or process makes perfect, Living with sculptures, and Drawings.

As impressive as Sabin Howard's creations are the writings of Traci L. Slatton are equally rewarding. She is a fine writer (novels Immortal, Fallen, and The Botticelli Affair and a crossover between science and spirituality book entitled Piercing Time & Space. It is the collaboration of these tow fine artists that makes this book so appealing to a very large audience. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, May 12

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lecture on Anatomy in Brooklyn

Monday, May 7, 2012


Wanted to share the latest ART TALK that I had with my wife Traci l Slatton as a radio interview!

Listen to internet radio with ArtTalk on Blog Talk Radio

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Interpretation of sculpture dream in DAILY NEWS

I wanted to share Lauren Lawrence's interpretation of my dream. Her interpretation appeared in the Daily News.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Epoch Times Coverage, and Radio Show 3/8/12

The Epoch Times online posted a great article about my opening on March 2 at the ICAA. This lively, informative international news outlet will run the print edition in a few days. See the article here.

Also, catch me live tonight on Rockland World Radio: New Perspectives at 6:00 pm ET.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


“I believe that art has a moral responsibility, that it must pursue something higher than itself. Art must be a part of life. It must exist in the domain of the common man. It must be an enriching, ennobling and vital partner in the public pursuit of civilization. it should be a majestic presence in everyday life just as it was in the past.” – Frederick Hart

. Wasn't ever really interested in an I'm ok your ok approach to art. .. And Mr. Hart's statement really spells it out nicely to rise to the occasion. What I like so much about what he said is that there is a common denominator to all of us.. And even that, when recognized is something of wonder and amazement... Art needs to be treated as a sacred object and when it's ironic or ugly it just feeds into a less than victim-like existence rather than one of empowerment. Mr. Hart was a pioneer in a time when the figure had been completely rejected by most academics and critics.. I find him to be a voice of reason in an art world that truly misses the point. This man had courage and heart!

I also wanted to mention that there is unprecedented interest in the Leonardo Da Vinci show at tThe National Gallery in London, where entrance fee is 16 British Pounds.. People are paying up to 400 Pounds just to see it.. Now I'm not saying that it's because it's Renaissance Art that it is drawing such intense interest.. Rather it's because humans cherish belonging to something greater than themselves and something that is so clearly of tremendous value and consciousness.. Who the hell wants to belong to something reminiscent of crap! Time to rise to the occasion..

I look forward to the Book Launch - Sculpture Show- Press Conference this Friday at the INSTITUTE FOR CLASSICAL ARCHITECTURE AND ART.. And I hope you will join us!

Take the sculpture off the floor and show us what can be..