Bill Bane: A life of sculpture
Bill Bane is a Newberg artist known for his life-size bronze sculptures that convey the beauty and grace of the human figure. His creations feature people in action, people of the past and representations of the human character that blend with their environments.
Bane said he began playing with clay at the age of 3, but that sculpture didn't become a profession until much later after a career as an investment broker. Still he worked in clay on evenings and weekends.
"It's a passion. I am 76 and I'm still going strong," he said. "This passion keeps you young and keeps you alive."
He has worked on commission from the beginning when he became serious about bronze sculpting in the mid-1970s. He started out painting and decided to return to school after his service in the military. He took art courses at the Portland Museum School and a spark of inspiration came after viewing sculptures created by Fred Littman.
"It just resonated with me when I saw his work and after that I switched to sculpting (from painting)," he said.
Bane's work can be seen in myriad places throughout the country, including a marble bust of U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield that was placed in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian in 2001.
"I am particularly proud of the fact that I was accepted into the Smithsonian!" he said. "My primary interest is creating commissioned portrait sculptures, figurative work for monuments and memorials in bronze and stone. The commissions includes works that have honored our military veterans as well elected and appointed at the federal, state and local levels.
The Evergreen Aviation building in McMinnville features a sculpture titled "Captain Michael King Smith." It is a nine foot bronze memorial of Smith in his pilot gear, helmet in arm and laced with a protective wind scarf wrapped around his neck. Bane was commissioned to do this work by the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. Smith, an F-15 pilot and son of Evergreen Aviation founder Del Smith, was killed in a car accident.
Bane does considerable research on the projects he is commissioned before starting the work.
"Ideas begin to develop as you are researching the project," he said. "Depending on where it is located, the inspiration comes from the people who are commissioning the work. I go on site and try to relate to the area. Most of the work is figurative, it rarely draws from the area, but it symbolizes something in the area."
When he worked on the Smith sculpture, "It was a sad situation and his father would come to the studio and hold his hand, or tweak his ear. He spent a lot of time at the studio," Bane said.
Bane was also commissioned to create "Royal Rosarian," a life-size bronze statute located in the Portland Rose Garden.
"That one is a Rosarian, an organization in Portland; they are the greeters for the city," he said. "They have a section and in their section is the sculpture."
This sculpture represents a man greeting the viewer with a tip of the hat. "That is what they used to do — tip their hat," Bane said, adding that the sculpture was a commemoration of the civic group's 100th anniversary.
"My work normally serves a purpose and honor's somebody or something," Bane said. "There are not many people around that do this type of work. Most of the stuff is either for public art projects or for corporate."
The process of creating a bronze sculpture is time consuming and a bit complicated.
"I will do a model by scale, then digitize it, (then) mill it out in foam at the actual size that acts as the structure and support for the clay," he said. "I then put the clay on and the mold is made using cyclone rubber that gives a negative of the piece. I cover the outside with either plaster or fiberglass, fill it with wax, then cast it in bronze."
It takes Bane anywhere from six months to a year to complete a sculpture. The pieces typically weigh from 300 to 400 pounds, are hollow and the walls are from one-quarter to three-sixteenths of an inch thick.
To install the piece, he gently wraps the art with bubble wrap or blankets and uses a hoist to lift it onto a truck.
"It is a team effort," Bane said.