Monday, May 13, 2013

Whispering Giants

Peter Wolf Toth Indian Sculpture in Idaho Falls, ID
This photo came up in my Facebook feed a couple of days ago.  It made me remember going to watch the artist, who traveled all over the country creating similar statues in tribute to Native Americans, carve it.  Most, if not all, of the carving was done with a chainsaw.  And I remember the impression the raw power of the blade cutting through wood to uncover what Peter Wolf Toth could see in the log that I couldn't made on me.  This was the first time I'd seen a 'real' artist at work and the process was fascinating!

At one point someone asked him what he was doing and his profound answer that he was just "taking away anything that doesn't look like an Indian" gives some insight into artistic vision.  It seems like much the same process, and answer, Michelangelo gave about freeing David from the block of marble.

Mr. Toth created a series of these sculptures all over the United States, and Canada, honoring the original peoples of the continent.  Some of them are modeled after a specific person and some are more generic to honor the legacy of a tribe and provide all of us with a visual way to remember them, their plight and their humanity .  He called these sculptures the Trail of Whispering Giants.

I believe each is carved from a single log and the heights range from under 10 feet to near 40.  They truly are giants!  Mr. Toth began carving these massive tributes in 1972 continuing through 1988 though I do see a few later dates listed including new additions in 2008 (King Stephen I of Hungary in Délegyháza - the only one located outside of North America) and 2009 (Tecumseh in Vincennes, Indiana).  Of the 60 or so I can count still in existence  I've had the opportunity to see 3 of them.  But I'm hopeful of finding a way to see more as I study where they are located in respect to where I live now!  The link above will take you to a full listing of statue locations and this one has pictures of several of them.

The Idaho Falls Indian
This 27-foot tall statue was carved on-site in 1980 from a Douglas Fir and receives a coat of paint each year to preserve it.  It's located in the North Tourist Park which is (or at least was back then) adjacent to the Pinecrest Municipal Golf Course.

The Murray Indian
Photo credit:
Carved in 1985 in the Murray City Park in Murray Utah, this statue of Chief Wasatch is 23 feet tall and, according to the statistics gathered by the Ogden Standard Examiner, weights 35,000 pounds.  The wood came from a massive Cottonwood Tree which is a messy tree, spewing a thick layer of 'cotton' as it buds each spring, native to the Salt Lake valley  Chief Wasatch lends his name to the beautiful mountains (not visible in these photos) behind the statue on the valley's east side.

The Springfield Indian
Photo credit:
Commemorating Omiskanoagwiak, Medicine Man of the Wolf-People who are/were native to Massachusetts' Pioneer Valley, this 15-foot tall statue was completed and dedicated in 1984.  In the early 1990s I worked for a company headquartered in Springfield and traveled there twice.  Forest Park, where the statue is located, was within walking distance of my hotel and it caught me with delighted surprise to see another of these magnificent creations that weekend I was feeling a little lonely and homesick!

About Peter Wolf Toth
Born in December 1947, he is a Hungarian-born sculptor living in Akron, OH.

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