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Sculptor's Muse: Apprenticeship

Tracy with Dr. Sam M. Gore - her "Father-in-Sculpture" in front of his "Fallen Comrade" sculpture.

Back in the Medieval Ages, the art of sculpting was achieved through the master/apprentice style of training. This was more of a one on one type of approach, and though a Master could have a studio full of apprentices working under him, they each were able to study with him individually as they progressed in their field. Once your apprenticeship was completed, you were then a journeyman - stepping out on your own until finally you achieved the rank of Master with apprentices under you. However, in today's current culture, the apprenticeship style training has given way to the more 'formal' approach of university classrooms.

I was truly blessed to not only study under Dr. Sam Gore (taking sculpture classes under him for my undergradate and my MFA graduate work) but also to work closely with him for eight year as an apprentice.

That began when I first met him over 25 years ago. Since that time Dr. Gore became a mentor to me, not only in sculpture, but he helped develop my understanding of art and history, the role the Christian has in the arts, apologetics for beautiful figurative art and the work ethic demanded of the disciple of figurative sculpture.

During these years, he and his wife, Margie, became very close to our family and as our children were born, "DorDor" and "Mimi" were another set of grandparents to them.

In addition to the fun of family, there were many many hours spent as I would prepare clay, help block out monuments, read sculpture and art books that were recommended - my husband, Robert, also worked with Dr. Gore creating molds for his sculptures that would be cast in bronze or other materials, driving to load the truck with dry clay for the pug mill, and other sundry tasks focused on mold making and bronze casting. All of this helped us so much in the field of sculpture. We eventually built our own foundry, Robert working as mold maker and foundryman for my sculptures.

Dr. Gore could do anything and make anything work or create any tool he needed. One time Robert complimented him on a specific patina on a bronze, and found out he had just thrown together a few random ingredients he had - including Coke! We would refer to this 'ability' to do anything, out of anything, as "the Gore". Years later, we realized that we had achieved this intuitive ability as well. In essence we had crossed the line from journeyman to master.

This past spring, I got a phone call, that Dr Gore at age 91, had suddenly passed away. I had talked with him on the phone two days before - talking about the sculptures we were each working on and making sure that I told the kids he loved them. There is no need to describe my grief.

The day following I felt compelled to sculpt a memorial sculpture - a small size, just for me - and there was so much comfort in the process for me. I chose a 'sculptor angel' as the figure, with a medallion bearing a bas relief created from a self-portrait Dr Gore had painted. I had sculpted a 'ribbon' across the front to bear the title, but when I was finished, I had no words - so I left the ribbon blank.

Memorial to Dr. Samuel M. Gore

We went down for the funeral, one of my sons was an honorary pall bearer (two of my sons were pall bearers when his wife passed away a few years back.), we sat with the family, and his oldest daughter (and one of my close friends) Judy, asked my help to assist in completing the sculpture that Dr Gore had been working on. He had been working furiously on completing three figures of the sleeping disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. Earlier this year he had unveiled his figure of Christ praying in the Garden and these were to be the companion pieces to that sculpture.

So, three weeks later, I drove down with my son, Colt, who assists me with my larger sculptures - as well as modeling for me as needed. We spent three days with Judy as we prayed, discussed, and worked together on Dr Gore's unfinished disciple. Through tears, shared laughter over memories, and spells of silence as we both sculpted, we all worked. When Colt wasn't modeling he was working up the clay for us as the plasticine used was various kinds and some was much stiffer than others. Barbara Gauntt, who had created the book of Dr Gore and his work "Blessed with Tired Hands" wanted to come by and take photos as a visual journal of the unfinished sculpture. As another close friend of the Gore's, Barbara joined in our shared grief, she photographed the last few hours we worked together.

Judy had asked other students of Dr Gore to assist in the completion of the sculpture, and she and I had a 'goal' for how far we wanted to get the sculpture finished while we were down there before the other students came to do their part - Praise God - we achieved that goal with two hours to spare, after three days of work!

Colt models in the background as Judy and I work Photograph by Barbara Gauntt

As funds are currently being raised for the casting of the last three figures, the sculptures sit quietly in Dr. Gore's studio, and I feel truly blessed indeed to be a part of his work - in so many ways.

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