Marble Falls sculptor Dan Pogue poses with his latest project, a full-size hippo sculpture that will be part of a city of Hutto display. Pogue advocates for public art exhibits such as Marble Falls’ Sculpture on Main, which he helped start in 2007. Since then, a number of other small towns have replicated the concept. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton
EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
Dan Pogue has sculpted intricate, beautiful pieces of art, including a towering 16-foot archangel, but his latest project is almost amusing to him.
“You know, I’ve never done a hippo before,” he said in his gallery and studio located east of Marble Falls. “I’ve done a lot of things, but this is a first.”
The three, full-size hippos are for the city of Hutto’s historic district. Pogue only sculpted the top halves of the animals to look as if they are in water, which is where they will be placed. The city is building a downtown water feature, and kids will be able to play on the hippos — the high school’s mascot, in case you’re wondering.
It’s interactive, and Pogue is a big advocate of public art displays such as this.
“That’s one of my big focuses right now,” he said. “I’m always trying to find ways to create more public art and public art displays.”
In 2007, Pogue and Marble Falls businessman Russell Buster helped launch Sculpture on Main, an annual outdoor art exhibit with new sculptures unveiled each year on Main Street and in the surrounding downtown. Highland Lakes Creative Arts now organizes the event, which kicks off this year on November 8-9 with the Street Fest.
Over the past 12 years, other cities have sent representatives to study Sculpture on Main so they can implement it in their own communities.
“A lot of other small towns have picked it up,” Pogue said.
Public displays such as Sculpture on Main are the perfect canvases for artists who work on large-scale projects. Pogue has eight to 10 pieces spread out across Texas, including closer to home in Lampasas, Boerne, Cedar Park, and Georgetown.
These art displays also boost local economies.
“It brings people in,” Pogue said. “Maybe you’ll have someone come in, family members, and you’ll go, ‘Hey, let’s go see the sculptures.’ Then, while they’re looking at the art, they’ll also go into some of the stores and or go eat (at a local restaurant). So the cities see an economic benefit from public art shows.”
Since much of the displayed art, including in Sculpture on Main, is for sale, it’s a boost for the artists, too. Pogue has sold works to people across the United States and beyond. He has sculpted people, horses and other animals, and more abstract pieces. He spends a lot of time studying his subject before beginning. For his latest project, he looked at hippo anatomy and structure, how the animal moves, and how that movement affects its different parts, making the replica as realistic as possible.
Creating a bronze sculpture is a multistep process that starts with a much smaller clay model. Then, Pogue sculpts a full-size clay model, which he coats with rubber to create a mold on which he puts fiberglass to make a “mother” mold.
He pours wax into the fiberglass mold to create a wax copy of the sculpture. Next, he covers the wax sculpture with a ceramic shell. Ceramic can withstand the 2,000-degree bronze that will be poured into it.
Pogue removes the wax from the ceramic mold. Then, his son, Doug Pogue, who owns the foundry next to the gallery, pours bronze into the ceramic mold. Once the bronze cools, Dan Pogue breaks off the ceramic to reveal the bronze sculpture within.
Often, especially in larger pieces such as the hippos, Pogue casts several bronze sections that he welds together to make the final piece.
Pogue cleans the bronze with a sandblaster and adds a patina to the final sculpture.
This is just one way to create a sculpture, Pogue explained. He uses different methods, depending on the project. Over his five decades as a sculptor, Pogue has experimented with different methods and come up with his own.
As a young artist, Pogue knew he wanted to create large, public art pieces. And he’s accomplished that goal several times over. He has drawings and sketches scattered about his shop with ideas and thoughts for many projects.
Once the hippos are done, there are plenty more waiting to come alive in Pogue’s hands.