Sculptor uses implied motion, imbues stone with life
By Bob Karlovits
Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
Updated: Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Chas Fagan sometimes has to make matters mysterious.
The sculptor-portrait artist-painter has made himself well-known with images of many famous figures, such as astronaut Neil Armstrong, and former presidents George H.W. Bush and the late Ronald Reagan.
But Fagan has had to be quiet about two current projects.
One, a portrait of Sewickley financial planner John Tippins, is being delivered Friday and, finally, can be revealed.
The other, featuring 8-foot-tall statues in an outdoor, public setting, will be unveiled early in 2013.
Discussion stops there for now.
Staying mum when asked is one of the tricky aspects of life filled with “demands, agreements and understandings,” says Fagan, a Ligonier native who lives in Charlotte.
Fagan, 46, says those kinds of contractural clauses have to be observed in a business where an artist is “always trying to get word out there” about his work.
Evidently, he has been getting that word out. He talks about lots of recent projects, along with those in which he currently is inolved.
• He has created statues of Ronald Reagan for the U.S. Capitol, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi, Calif., the U.S. Embassy in London and at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
• His work of civil-rights legend Rosa Parks was debuted at the National Cathedral in May, and a matching stone work of Mother Teresa will be unveiled in October.
• His statue of a seated Neil Armstrong has “become part of the culture” at Purdue University, Fagan says. People dress it up for special occasions, and one person even had the moon-walker hold the leash of a dog for enough time to take a photo.
One of the reasons for the popularity of his art could be the way he uses implied motion to make the statue seem more alive than “a 2,000-pound piece of stone.”
That motion can be subtle — such as the bent knee and sightly raised foot of the Reagan airport statue — or as dynamic as the galloping horse in one of Capt. James Jack, a Revolutionary War hero in Charlotte.
Even the Amstrong statue has implied action. He appears to be looking at a set of moonboot footprints on a nearby lawn, which Fagan added as part of the project.
“I think that comes from my fascination with portraits,” says Fagan, who started his work in art with drawings and paintings. “There are some portraits where there is some hint of life, some pose, a little detail that make you want to keep on looking.”
He tries to find those aspects to make images real. For instance, he spent time with Armstrong basically to get a good idea of his face and his physique. But Fagan believes Armstrong's energy and personality helped him form the image he created for Purdue.
Of course, achievement can fuel inspiration, he admits. Fagan has a degree in Soviet studies from Yale University and says his work in those studies makes him a fan of Reagan and his involvement in the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Among his many Reagan works is a profile of the president that hangs in the Museum Room of the aircraft carrier that bears Reagan's name.
It is mounted on a piece of the Berlin Wall.
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7852.
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