Dave McGary

Dave McGary

(1958 - 2013)


McGary always worked from the inside out. He only sat down to create a sculpture after countless hours of research. In most cases, that meant traveling to distant corners of the American plains with tribal elders and historians and visiting with the kinfolk of the subject. Only when McGary felt as if he had a true sense of the person, a connection to that inner self, did his studio work begin. His first step was to build an armature, which he considered a three-dimensional sketch. Using steel wire, the artist would craft a framework that was in reality a skeleton, the internal structure that supported everything. Even though no one would see these "wire bones," McGary worked diligently to get them just right. This was where the posture and attitude and much of the spirit of the piece would be conveyed.


McGary would then apply his clay, working again from the inside out. He first built a layer of muscle, then added the skin and finally the clothing and other artifacts such as gun, spear and shield. The sculptor used a hard clay, one that had to be heated in an oven to make it more pliable as he wrapped it around the wire. Once the anatomy was correct, elaborate details were added. McGary would often work the clay for three to four months.


Once the clay figure was complete, a mold was then made. This "negative" mold was then filled with melted wax. After cooling, the clay mold was stripped away leaving a wax shell. At this stage McGary could then shape the wax, making changes and adding more details. The wax would then be dipped into a slurry, creating a new clay mold.


Heating the clay melted the wax. The mold was then filled with molten bronze in what is known as the Lost Wax technique. Once the bronze solidified, the clay mold was beaten away with hammers.


Although Dave McGary was not Indigenous, he was able to cross the barrier that so many could not and was trusted by Native American peoples. His striking and startlingly life-like art shows a respect for their culture, values and spirituality.


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