Smithwick sculptor Dan Pogue creates towering archangel for Catholic school

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

SMITHWICK — Dan Pogue is going big for his latest sculpture. So big it barely fits in his shop just east of Marble Falls.

“Yeah, we had to cut the tips of his wings off so he would fit,” Pogue said as he craned his neck back to look up at the sculpture. “It’s one of the biggest I’ve done.”Last fall, St. Michael’s Catholic Church and School gave Pogue approval on a commissioned piece that will go in front of the Houston campus. The sculpture is of St. Michael, the namesake of the church and school. The archangel towers about 16 feet above the ground as he holds his shield in his left hand across his chest while grasping a sword about his head in his right hand.

Though St. Michael was a known as a defender who fought against Satan to protect God’s people from evil, Pogue’s interpretation of the archangel combines his strength with compassion.

Creating the 16-foot sculpture has consumed much of Pogue’s time since the church gave him approval last fall. He actually started the endeavor months before the approval when the church and school contacted him about doing a commissioned piece to go in front of the facility’s new educational campus.

Inside his gallery, Pogue showed a smaller version of the St. Michael piece. At 18 inches, the model barely comes up to the larger sculpture’s ankle. But the model, Pogue explained, is how it all starts.

“I make the model and then get the church’s approval,” the artist said.

Once he received approval, Pogue began fashioning the full-size St. Michael out of styrofoam.

That’s right, styrofoam.

The lightweight material is easy to work with and forgiving.

After completing the styrofoam St. Michael, Pogue covered it in a light cement coating. This isn’t the finished product, though.

“No,” Pogue said with a grin. “There’s a lot of steps that go into the process before I have a finished piece.”

He uses the styrofoam-cement St. Michael to create a rubber mold of the full-size model. Because of the size of this sculpture, he’ll probably do it in several pieces.

The rubber mold will be used to make a wax replica of St. Michael’s pieces. Pogue will cover the wax molds in a ceramic coating. From there, he’ll melt the wax, leaving a hollow shell of St. Michael.

Then Pogue’s son, Doug Pogue, who owns a foundry next to the gallery, will pour bronze into the ceramic shell. Once the material cools, the two men will remove the ceramic shell to reveal the bronze St. Michael.

“It’s quite a process,” Dan Pogue said. “But even after the casting, we still have a lot of work to do.”

Pogue will smooth the texture, removing any burrs left in the casting process. Then, he will weld together the pieces, creating a complete bronze St. Michael.

Once completed, Pogue will deliver the sculpture to St. Michael’s Church and School, where he will install it this summer. He has to have it done and installed by an August date because a Roman Catholic cardinal is coming to dedicate the new school and sculpture.

“So, I think this is going to be a big deal,” Pogue said. “Thank goodness for the Catholic church, they love art. The religious art, it’s a blessing and a joy for me.”

daniel@thepicayune.com