Sculptor Takes Up Residence in Tres Ríos

July 15, 2005

ELIZABETH MacQueen’s work hasled her to Italy, Canada, Belgium, Greeceand France. But when she landed in CostaRica two years ago, the world-renownedsculptor intended to take a break from hercraft.MacQueen moved here to spend timewith her daughter Mary Elizabeth, now 14,and enroll her in a school where she couldlearn another language. They discoveredthe international Marion Baker School andmoved to the tranquil mountain town ofSan Ramón de Tres Ríos, east of San José.Soon after, MacQueen found herself atwork sculpting again, when the MarionBaker School commissioned her to do asculpture for its 20th anniversary.Her creation, “Saturday Afternoon,”has now become a fixture of the schoolyard.The sculpture, which MacQueen saidrepresents science and knowledge, consistsof two bronze benches with a young boyand girl playing on top.School director Linda Neihaus said theschool decided to take advantage ofMacQueen’s talent, and was very pleasedwith the outcome of the statue.¨It’s a joy to watch the kids interactwith the statue; they’ll put their arm aroundit or their hands on its knee,” Neihaus said.“It’s important to make art accessible, andthis is one way of doing it.”MACQUEEN, whose public collectionscan be found in Italy, Canada and theUnited States, works in stone and bronze tosculpt figures based on movement and thehuman form.Many of her models have beendancers, though she also gains inspirationfrom the master artists of the Renaissance,music and literature.Her signature piece, “Mudra,” is a life sizebronze sculpture of a male dancerleaping through the air, with his backarched and arms thrown back in what lookslike gravity-defying talent.MacQueen calls the piece “the heightof beauty of human form. It’s the best youcan be.”THE sculptor says she always uses thehuman body as her subject because sheloves the beauty of muscle structure andfinds the entire human form “extraordinary.”She begins a sculpture by sketchingand photographing models to develop abronze mold, which is later filled in.Her work with marble involves usingvarious tools and even air compressors totransform a large block into a finishedsculpture. The process is physical as wellas artistic, demanding great stamina andstrength, MacQueen said.Her mastery of human muscle structurecan be seen in a commission she sculptedfor the U.S. Women’s National Basketball Association’s Hall of Fame in Knoxville,Tennessee. The 34-foot-tall bronze andsteel statue captures two women basketballplayers in action.ORIGINALLY from Birmingham,Alabama, MacQueen studied design andsculpture at the University of California,Los Angeles. She later spent 10 years inQuercetta and Pietrasanta, Italy, wheresculptors from all over the world convergeto work and study. There, she learned thetraditional technique of working with aplaster positive, which she later makes intoa marble or bronze mold.She said she loves Italy for its uniqueCarrara marble, which Michelangelo usedin his work.Because the world’s supply of Carrarais running out, a big piece can be worth$250,000; sculptures made from the marblesell from $45,000-125,000, dependingon their size, MacQueen said.“What I love about sculpture is touchingthe stone and clay and the silky feel ofmarble,” she said. “It’s a miracle. Goodmarble is so exquisitely beautiful.”THOUGH MacQueen had intended totake time off from sculpting while in CostaRica, she’s found herself anxious to beginworking again.Families or individuals can commissionher to do portraits in bronze or smallstatues. These pieces become monumentsthat stay in a family for generations,MacQueen said.She also has plans to bring some of herwork here for a solo exhibit at the NationalGallery in San José, and is in the process oflooking for sponsors. For information or toview MacQueen’s work, visit her Web siteat www.macqueenfineart.com.

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