Copper in the Arts

April 2013

Racing to the Goal: The Bronze Expressions of Mike Tabor

By Michael Cervin

Bronze sculpture Company Man, bronze sculptor, by Mike Tabor.

Photograph courtesy of Mike Tabor

Since he was a child, Michael Tabor has always loved art.

"We didn't have much of TV growing up so I lay on the floor copying cartoons," he says. Naturally this third-generation Texan started drawing for cattle publications and ranch owners who wanted to memorialize their prize steers. That may sound like an inauspicious beginning into bronze sculpting, but it served Tabor well. He has created multiple bronze works of his own, all themed with a Western motif. In addition to drawing and sculpting he has been teaching at Granbury High School in Granbury, Texas for 21 years.

But it was his association John Hancock Insurance that moved his bronze sculpting into high gear. Tabor was asked to oversee a project already in development of creating and casting bronze awards for the top sellers in the insurance department. "I started doing national sales meeting awards and the top earners received bronze awards; a bucking horse, cowboys, all cast in bronze," says Tabor. "When they touched the bronze, they knew it was special." The awards were initially done in clay, then cast in bronze at Art Bryant Foundry in Azle Texas where Tabor does all his casting. "I oversee all of it, but I uses finishers and patina guys," he admits. Once his bronzes are finished he prefers to wax his bronze.

Bronze sculpture Heritage, bronze sculptor, by Mike Tabor.

Photograph courtesy of Mike Tabor

Hancock asked Tabor to do a life size bronze casting of the father and son team of Dick and Rick Hoyt. For 35 years, Dick Hoyt has pushed or pulled his son, Rick, who is a quadriplegic and has cerebral palsy, through the finish lines of over 1,000 athletic events, including Iron Man Triathlons. The duo is a fixture at the Boston Marathon where John Hancock is the marathon's main sponsor. "Hancock wanted a life size bronze of the Hoyts in about eight months," Mike recalls laughing. He started with three 1/3rd life size bronzes of which John Hancock has one, the Hoyts have another, and the third currently in Boston's Logan Airport, which will make its way to the sports museum at TD Garden, home of the Boston Celtics. The life size bronze is located at the Boston Marathon starting line to memorialize the human condition.

"I wanted the Hoyt's in action----this is a great story and a great struggle," Tabor says. For the sculpture, Tabor had to recreate three bronze pieces, including the two men, and the cart. "For me the biggest challenge was building the cart (which he changed four times). I built it, took it apart, and re-built it." The three pieces were then welded together, but in reality the bronze sculpture is made up of 27 different pieces from molds.

And with such a high profile piece, how does Tabor decide his work is complete? "You never finish bronze, you just abandon it," Tabor says half-joking. "If I run out of things to correct then I assume I'm done." He continues to teach, draw and cast bronze work. "Bronze has richness, a depth of quality that you can't get from resin or any other material, it's a true feeling. There's absolutely nothing like bronze."

Resources:

Mike Tabor, 5534 N Highway 144, Granbury, TX, (817) 578-1235

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