Copper in the Arts

October 2008

Thing 1, Thing 2, Bronzed Anew: The Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden

By Donna Dvorak

Seuss Museum Bronzed Theodor Geisel (aka, Dr. Seuss) with The Cat in the Hat

Photograph by Paul David

We all cherish the childhood books of Dr. Seuss, including the "Cat in the Hat", "Horton Hears a Who! Can You?", "Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories", "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", "The Lorax", plus many more books and lovable characters.

And the tradition continues!

The Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, in Springfield, Massachusetts, part of the Springfield Museum, proudly contains a bronze and copper tribute to these immortal characters in this town where Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka, Dr. Seuss, was born. These wonderful stories delight children of all ages. The memorial garden, with five bronze sculptures, is designed with three big groupings at the corner of the Quadrangle green near the Springfield Library. Sculptor Lark Grey Dimond Cates, Geisel's stepdaughter, sculpted these bronze tributes to Dr. Seuss. including a bronze Theodor Geisel at his desk with the Cat in the Hat by his side, Horton Court, with a 14-foot Horton the Elephant stepping out of an open book with Thing One, Thing Two, Sam-I-Am, Sally and her brother, and the big hearted moose, Thidwick. The third group is The Storyteller: a Seussian storytelling chair backed by a 10-foot tall book with the text to "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"

"We chose bronze due to its timeless quality that brings out a character in sculpture that you don't find with other materials," says Joseph Carvalho, President of the Springfield Museums Association. "If the patina is bronzed correctly it has nuances brought out with the light of every season. Each time you look at a particular sculpture it has a different feel to it, especially outdoor sculptures. Since we added the sculpture park our attendance has grown to 150,000 people a year."

Cates was the overall project manager and, according to Carvalho, put her total soul into this project by creating the bronze sculptures.

The Lorax Geisel's Lorax, captured in bronze

Photograph by Paul David

"I used to sit quietly and observe Ted (Geisel) creating the characters," Lark, co- owner of Dimond Cate Studios with her husband, Ken, explains. "He'd sit in his studio that overlooked the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla, CA. Unfortunately, he died in September 1991, when I was just starting to sculpture. When I designed the pieces for the sculpture garden I tried to make it appear as if Ted had done the work. It was my idea and design and I chose the characters that I wanted to portray. They are all key characters and I also decided how to present them. I picked the post of Ted sitting in the chair and put the cat (from the Cat in the Hat) next to him, and added a small village under the chair."

Cates designed the pieces, created the small models that were proofed by her mother, Audrey, enlarged and then sculptured them.

"Ken worked with me for six and a half years on this wonderful project," she says. "I also had two enlargers because every statue is life-size, and I worked with three foundries - Art Research and Technology, in Lancaster, PA, Valley Bronze, in Joseph, OR, and the San Diego Naval Training Center that had a foundry at that time. High quality bronze was used in each statue."

According to Cates, they also installed a life-cast in the library at Dartmouth College, where he graduated that also contains an oil portrait of Geisel. The life-cast is actually his right hand holding a colored pencil, and Seussian landscape, as if he was penning his last words - "Oh, The Places You'll Go" - his last book.

"We have Yertle the Turtle sulking in his pond, and the Lorax in his tree reminding us that we all have to take care of this planet. It's about 45 by 45 inches - the size of the portrait," Lark explains. "So, there are actually two Dr. Seuss's and Cat in the Hat Sculptures. I enjoy that it's there so I can visit him."

Resources:

A brief video walkthrough of the sculpture garden. Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, 21 Edwards St., Springfield, MA, (413) 263-6800

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