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Sedona sculptor Ken Rowe goes Bonkers for Bison

Untitled precast bas-relief by Ken Rowe.

Untitled precast bas-relief by Ken Rowe.

Originally Published: January 12, 2021 10:37 a.m.

Occasionally something catches your eye, and it sparks an obsession. Sometimes the obsession translates into a collection, a new hobby, or even relocating to Sedona (Red Rock Fever is real).

In the case of award-winning wildlife bronze sculptor Ken Rowe, obsession transformed into inspiration.

Ken has gone bonkers for bison.

It began with a bull bison encounter at a wildlife theme park near Sedona last year.

Fast forward to today, and Ken has six bas-relief clay sketches of that bison surrounding him in his studio.

Each one is in a different stage of completion, and they run the gamut from low reliefs (think the profile of Abraham Lincoln on a penny) to high reliefs (picture one of Ken’s traditional three-dimensional sculptures).

But it all begs the question: Is the bison the obsession or is it the bas-relief technique?

“That’s a fair point,” Ken laughs. “These reliefs are super challenging and take three times longer than a normal sculpture because you’re trying to bring a 3-D quality to a shallow surface. Edouard Lanteri, who, in the late 1800s, famously wrote the bibles on sculpting, referred to bas-relief as ‘humbling.’ I think that pretty much sums it up.”

Ken says it’s not just the challenge of something new that keeps him motivated.

His collectors have voiced a desire for more artwork that hangs on the wall rather than stands on a pedestal, which can take up a lot of real estate.

The reliefs are more cost-effective to cast, too, and that savings is passed on to collectors.

And speaking of casting, the process is generally finished quicker, another plus for eager art lovers.

Although Ken says he might not cast all six sketches in bronze, the first bronze will be completed and available at Rowe Fine Art Gallery by late spring.

Curiosity seekers can also stop into the gallery this winter to observe Ken working on the pieces.

If they are lucky, they might find him painting the backgrounds of the reliefs, like he did for an earlier bison sculpture, From Here to the Horizon, which features relief work at the base.

“To make the mountains pop on that piece, I treated them like an oil painting,” says Ken. “The merging of the mediums – painting and sculpture – is going to work even better when you’re talking about reliefs that hang on the wall the way an oil would hang on the wall.”

Come see what all the fuss is about at Rowe Fine Art Gallery.

Rowe Fine Art Gallery represents traditional and contemporary southwestern artists.

The gallery, located under the bell tower in Patio de las Campanas at Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village, is open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information, call 928-282-8877, visit rowegallery.com, or find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.