Sculptor Bud Burger’s biggest problem at the moment is that he has, in his own words, “sculpted himself into a corner.” Thankfully his studio space is quite large because his most recent creation, at 900 pounds with a 6-foot rack, is a life-sized moose lying down. It took the foundry he works with 31 molds, and that’s just one part of the multi-layered process that goes into creating bronze sculpture.
Burger grew up creating art, but it wasn’t until he retired from a 30-year career in sporting goods retail and moved to Northern Minnesota that he concentrated on sculpture full time. And with a passion for hunting and fishing, wildlife depictions were a natural fit. “The beauty of bronze sculpture is longevity; they last and last,” Burger says. “There are still bronze sculptures from the Roman Empire. It’s an art form that endures time.”
It’s also an art form that requires not only highly skilled craftsmanship, but also the expertise of the foundries where the sculptures are cast in metal. After sculpting in wax, using what’s known as the lost-wax process, the foundry creates a mold, a cast and then adds the patina through a chemical process for Burger’s work. “It’s very labor intensive,” Burger says. “But it transcends time and becomes heirlooms for families.”
Scott Jones, general manager of The Legacy Galleries, with locations in Bozeman, Montana, Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Scottsdale, Arizona represents a variety of bronze sculptors and finds that the wildlife and big game sculptures are most desired out West. “The first thing that people look at is the fact that it’s three dimensional, you can walk around it and see it from both sides,” Jones says. “Some people get into the monuments that go outside, and many go for smaller miniatures as a memento of a trip.” Jones notes that many buyers look for a particular animal, such as a bison, and then choose the one they are most drawn to, while serious collectors often look for those created by specific artists.
Burger will load up some of his life-sized pieces, such as the moose, and smaller works to join him at his booth at the upcoming SCI convention. “I’ll have big ones that are meant to be outside, along with small pedestal work and bronze mirror frames,” he says. “What’s neat about bronze is there’s such a permanency to it that adds to nostalgia and an appreciation of the art.”–Corinne Garcia