Go for the bronze

Michael Boyce

Bronze animal sculptures captured in mid-cavort at Artistry in Bronze.

Bronze animal sculptures captured in mid-cavort at Artistry in Bronze.

Photo By David Robert

Animal Artistry Gallery is at 1196 Terminal Way, 324-1515.

Animal Artistry is on the move—in more ways than one. Artist Michael Boyce, who formerly specialized in elaborate, hand-mounted taxidermy displays, is shifting his emphasis to bronze sculpture. And, to mark the change from animal preservation to animal representation, the company has just opened a new gallery–Artistry in Bronze–next door to its studio.

Many of Boyce’s resplendent bronzes are in the garden area in front of Artistry in Bronze and Animal Artistry. Conceived as a public space where everyone is welcome, the garden features life-size sculptures of deer and sheep; a playfully-designed fountain is adorned with a bear, gently swiping a paw at the water in search of fish. Gravel-lined paths and wooden benches invite the public to admire the sculptures or simply enjoy the fresh air.

Boyce makes it clear that the garden’s people-friendly layout has everything to do with his philosophy on art. A world traveler—previously as a hunter of exotic animals and now as an artist—the sculptor is deeply impressed by the focus on public artwork and public spaces in European cities.

“It creates the atmosphere for where people live,” he comments. By providing a similar space near his gallery, Boyce hopes to make his artwork accessible and enjoyable for everyone. He often strolls through the garden to clear his thoughts.

Originally from New York, Boyce’s family has lived in Nevada for more than 30 years. His father, also an artist, provided the early inspiration for Boyce’s creative expression. By watching his father paint, Boyce became interested in art, eventually studying at Loveland Art Academy in Colorado. Though Boyce has been an artist for many years, he’s relatively new to the medium of bronze, having taken it up just three years ago.

The process begins in the studio, where Boyce creates a “clay sketch,” a small drawing of the piece. From the sketch, he makes a maquette—a quarter-life-sized model made of clay over an aluminum-wire frame. This flexible, easily articulated model can be moved and posed to the artist’s satisfaction. Next comes the full-sized clay figure; when complete, it’s sent to a foundry, where it is cast in bronze using the lost-wax method. Finally, the bronze sculpture is surface-treated with a patina acid finish to bring out a variety of colors and finishes in the completed piece.

Boyce’s favorite subjects are humans and animals—often together—celebrating what he calls “the dance of life.” His pieces are intended as a tribute to the ancient interdependence between man and animal, with its overtones of survival and spirituality.

“We are all descendents of that primitive call,” he explains. Although Boyce is most directly inspired by the works of master sculptors such as Rodin and Michaelangelo, he sees all art, including his own, as part of a chain that extends far back in time to the first paintings on cave walls.

“It’s part of the human drama that everybody relates to at some point in their life.”

Looking at the pieces displayed in his studio, it’s easy to see that Boyce is fascinated by the strength and grace of wild animals. His subjects are depicted in motion: bounding and leaping in flight across the plains, picking their way precariously through rocky mountains, or poised to pounce on their prey. Boyce’s art is strongly realistic, with careful attention paid to musculature and proportion. His sculptures have all the sleek beauty and kinetic energy of their real-life counterparts.

“Art invokes emotion," Boyce says of his work. "It makes you feel things you weren’t even aware of. It reaches inside the shell we all put up to keep the world out, and it touches something."