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Bigger Than Life

6/16/16

Shea Stanfield
Arts Columnist

There is an old saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way,” a phrase Scottsdale Artist Hal Stewart’s parents made their motto for their family of nine children. Hal’s dad was a coal miner in southern Illinois and had to make the dollars stretch long and far to meet their needs. One of those was getting together 25 cents each week to send young Hal to Saturday art classes during the summer after 5th grade. They, along with the Superintendent of Art for their small town, saw an artistic talent in Hal that would come to light, for the rest of us years later as he took his place among the U.S.’s top bronze sculpture artists.

Once Hal entered adulthood, he knew he loved the process of sculpting, but never considered making a living with his talent. Instead, he served in the U.S. Navy, attended college, and moved to Arizona in 1968. Hal spent his working career in sales and service for the construction industry. During this time, the cowboy “lasso” got a hold of Hal. He ended up buying a small ranch in southeastern Arizona. As a rancher/farmer, he irrigated fields, mowed alfalfa hay, helped with the birthing of his cattle and horses, and got stepped on more than a few times in the process, a lifestyle he is now relieved to be retired from. During these years, Hal did manage to paint a few scenes and kept up with his creativity in the field of art with research and casual interest.

In 2000, when Hal retired from his construction career, he returned to his art as a sculptor.  His first piece, “Treaty Talker”, produced by a friend, became an instant success. Hal decided to take a few classes in sculpting to make sure he was “doing it right.” During this time, he attended the Scottsdale Artist School and found the expertise of teachers as John Coleman, Sandy Scott, Walter Matai, Tuck Langland, Richard Greeves, Bruno Lucchesi, and Mel Lawson. Today, Hal teaches summer classes for teens at the same school, while working in his own studio in Scottsdale, Arizona. Just as his expertise in sculpting has grown and expanded over the years, so has his subject matter from cowboys and horses, to Native Americans, to birds and animals. 

Hal’s sculptures have found their way into corporate and private collections across the country. His piece “Yaqui Deer Dancer” is on display at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, where he was previously honored with a one-man show. He is a member of the Western Artists of America and has been selected as an artist-in-residence by the U.S. Park Service to work during the summer at the north Rim of the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. Today, Hal’s piece “Catching Star Kachina” is in the permanent art collection of the U.S. Government on display at the south rim of the Grand Canyon, when not traveling with their exhibit of canyon artists throughout the country.

Giving back to the community is a large part of Hal’s gratitude for his creative gift. He volunteers with the American Healing Arts Foundation, where he teaches veterans how to express through their own artwork. He has also volunteered with the Arizona Art’s Alliance to teach at the Juvenile Prison facility in Buckeye, working with 12-18-year-old boys.

Looking ahead, Hal plans to continue to exhibit during the Arizona Fine Art EXPO in Scottsdale every year January through March. Beginning in September 2016, his work will be on display at Carsten’s Gallery in old town Scottsdale. He will continue to take commissions and give talks to various civic and art groups. Hal is expanding his sculpture into larger than “life size proportions.” His work “Pima Basket Carrier” stands nearly 8 feet tall and his “Navajo Grandmother” will stand nearly 7 feet tall, both impressive and awe-inspiring pieces.

The philosophy, “where there is a will, there is a way,” has served Hal well over the years. His talent and creativity brought us some of the most exquisite sculpture of our western landscape in a generation. To view Hal Stewart’s vast array of work, purchase a piece, or to contact him, visit his Web site at www.halstewartbronze.com.

Contact arts columnist Shea Stanfield at flowingquill@yahoo.com.