Apr 30, 2015

New University of Wyoming sculpture was locally crafted

Sculptor Mike Thomas just calls her Darlin’.

Artist D. Michael Thomas (left) and bronze chaser Clay Ward put finishing touches on the sculpture titled ‘Breaking Through’ at Ward's shop near Frannie. Photo by Ilene Olson
She has a smile on her face because she’s enjoying a hard ride on a good horse — and he’s a horse her brother couldn’t ride, Thomas said.

Darlin’ is no lightweight. She and her feisty horse comprise a larger-than-life bronze sculpture standing nearly 16 feet tall. Just her hat weighs 200 pounds.

Thomas, of Buffalo, has been a sculptor for 30 years. He sculpted the horse and rider in clay, Caleco Foundry of Cody turned the clay into dozens of pieces of bronze and Clay Ward, of Frannie, welded them together.

From concept to finish, the sculpture, “Breaking Through,” has taken two-and-a-half years to complete, Thomas said. Both he and Ward were putting finishing touches on the sculpture Wednesday in preparation for horse and rider’s long ride from Frannie to Laramie, where Thomas will install the sculpture in front of the University of Wyoming’s new Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center.

Thomas said the sculpture of the cowgirl and her horse will appear to be breaking through a block wall, with blocks from the wall scattered around them. In the process, her hat falls off onto the side of the wall.

The sandstone wall will be more than 20 feet tall and 17 feet wide. The sculpture will be located on the north side of the building in War Memorial Plaza.

“Part of the story that Michael Thomas’ piece is representing is the important role women have played in our state,” Ben Blalock, president of the UW Foundation, said last year in a UW news release. “It represents how Wyoming has been defined through the years though women who have broken through and who have made an important diff
erence in our society, and certainly continue to play a key role in the advancement of the University of Wyoming.”

Thomas’ sculpture is the second to be installed at the new center. Originally, only one was planned.

Thomas and artist Chris Navarro both came up with concepts for a sculpture of an aggressive horse and rider. They came up with remarkably different works of art, knowing that only one would be chosen. But the UW Foundation board members found them both so exciting and dynamic that they decided both should be part of the facility.

“Breaking Through” was supported by a donation of $500,000 from Marian H. Rochelle and her daughter, April Brimmer Kunz.

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