Saturday, May 28, 2011

Look for John Otto to be scanning the Colorado Monument Oct 7, 2011

It was no ordinary trip, the one taken to Mapleton, Utah, by a few members of the Grand Junction Legends Committee in late February. Their destination was the site where they could see the next sculpture in the series of historical works for which the group has hard raising funding. This would be the 4th in a series of artworks to recognize important facets of history in the Grand Valley.
Michael Wilson, artist who sculpted the exciting portrait of writer Dalton Trumbo and one of William Moyer, champion for area youth, displayed in downtown Grand Junction, was awarded the commission for the John Otto Project.
Wilson took the group to his temporary studio, and as he opened the huge door, the group gasped in amazement.
There it was, in clay, one and a quarter times larger than life-sized. Mid pink styrofoam pieces and parts of molds was Otto, sitting astride his horse, peering out at something through his single-scope. Wilson had truly captured the spirit of that man who, with tenacity and single-minded focus, managed to save the area we know as the Colorado National Monument, for posterity.
Tacked to a wall in the studio, were a few copies of historical photos depicting Otto on his horse, a close up of his face and hat and Independence Rock, used as references.

In his book about John Otto and the Colorado National Monument, (1961), Al Look, who became a personal friend of John Otto, described his friend as an interesting character to be sure as he wrote, ”I thought he was half crazy.”
He went on to say that so many details about Otto were obscure; yet, he noted that “Although dead fewer that ten years, Otto is rapidly becoming a legend around Western Colorado.”
Look first met Otto in 1921.
 “Otto appeared to be fifty years old and never seemed to get any older. A score of years later when he disgustedly pulled stakes and walked out on friends who he thought had betrayed him, he still looked to be a hard muscled, rough-handed trail builder of fifty.”
A drifter from California, Otto worked on the Fruita pipeline which crossed Glade Park and the canyon uplands as a “powder man”. It was after this job was complete that his love for the canyon took over his life.
According to Look, it was in 1907 that Otto got the idea to “develop a road and build trails to these scenic attractions he loved so much. He would ask Congress to make Monument Canyon into a National Park.”
From that time on, Otto was unbending in his efforts to do just that. He built trails, begged money, talked about his dreams, wrote many letters to legislatures, was a pest to newspapers, all the while living in the canyon with his horse and his two pack burros along with, as Look described, “lizards and pinyon squawkers and he slept with a sky for a blanket and the rim rocks for a mattress.”
“I never visited his camp, he did not invite me, and I didn’t ask…” wrote Look. “Otto was the first person to realize the importance of the scenic beauty of Monument Canyon as  a tourist attraction and the necessity for its being preserved in its natural state.”
In light of his past work, Wilson was invited to submit his idea for a bronze of Otto.
“I was glad to hear my idea had been picked,” said Wilson, “so I created a maquette using my idea, but after I thought about it even more, I made adjustments on a new design that April.”
With approval, Wilson began work on the final piece October of 2010. Using historical photos and descriptions from Al Kania’s book, TRIALS AND TRAILS, Wilson masterfully brought his idea to life.
The work viewed by the travelers that day in February, was of sculpture’s clay, carefully molded over an armature of Styrofoam made by the artist. Finally, after Wilson’s many hours on special minor details, Adonis Foundry of Salt Lake City began the casting process near the end of sometime in April.
You don’t want to witness the unveiling of Otto on his horse, a compliment to the Colorado National Monument’s ongoing Centennial celebration October 7, 2011 at the corner of First and Main in Grand Junction. At this site, the sculpture will showcase Otto’s spirit gazing out at what was his home, the canyon of red spires and towers.
The figure you will see there will be bronze, the scale of which is one and a quarter life-sized.

This maquette for the Otto bronze
was created by Wilson by using
descriptions from writings about

Wilson is pictured here with a photo of
a huge bronze he was commissioned to
create which stands in California.

Wilson created this maquette using his extensive knowledge
of horses. He nearly completed his degree in becoming a
veterinarian but went on to complete his degree in sculpture

The  John Otto bronze will be placed in such a manner that John will be
looking out at the Monument.

Photos used as references in the creation
the sculpture.

This is the final sculpture, but
pictured here as encased in the
casting material so you cannot
really appreciate the details.

Wilson points out detail to the
Legends group who traveled to
see his work.

And here you have the clay sculpture. The Bronze cast will of course, have
a different color cast and be somewhat smaller because the clay form
shrinks in casting. In order to celebrate the continuing Centennial Celebration of the 100th year of the Colorado National Monument,
be sure to attend the unveiling Oct 7, 2011, First and Main, Grand Junction.

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