Bart Walter • American (b: 1958)
Matriarch C: 2003 • Bronze 30" x 28" x 20"
Canton Museum of Art Permanent Collection • Donated by the Volunteer Angels in Recognition of our Museum’s Volunteers & Children of the Community, 2003.1
Lynn, a biology grad student, neglected to mention the “last two tickets” meant they were ushers. Hmmm. The speech was interesting, but the following reception was precisely the kind of event most feared by a young man who’d suffered through a painfully shy youth. It was hard to bridge the gap between Goodall’s celebrity and the grad student’s lowly status. There was lots of awkward small talk until Goodall noticed the carved feather pin Lynn was wearing. Bart’s hand-carved gift energized the conversation. Filled with good cheer, Goodall commissioned Bart to sculpt a chimpanzee . That strange evening pushed Bart’s fledgling career as an animal sculptor into the speed lane.
Bart Walter was a tongue-tied, often misunderstood teenager. Animals fascinated him. In the beginning he didn’t so much love art as he loved studying animals and trying to capture their souls in intricate woodcarvings. His father said “no” to art school, so young Bart soon found himself in rural Ohio, studying biology at Hiram College and living in the college’s biological field station. When he discovered earning a living as a biologist involved staying in school long enough to earn a Phd., he picked up his carving tools and began doing what he really wanted.
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Enter the 1986 evening with Jane Goodall. Afterward, Bart spent 2 years researching chimpanzees. Realizing his hyper-realism obscured his search for the soul of the animal, he developed an abstract surface style by adding pieces of clay pressed into the surface, often leaving palm and fingerprints.
All Bart’s sculptures are based on meticulous research designed to help him bring the viewer into the animal’s life. He usually works in the field, observing animals while creating quick clay studies. He’s been known to drive an old Landcruiser through jungles with half-finished sculptures bouncing on the seat beside him while chasing subjects for further study.
His deep dive into the life of chimpanzees brought about The Gathering, a collection of 7 figures. The entire group is permanently displayed at the National Zoo and traveled across America with Jane Goodall on her Reason For Hope Tour. A casting of the Matriarch found it’s way to the Canton Museum of Art, where Bart Walter staged his first major museum exhibition in Ohio. An invitation was hand-delivered to the college art professor who graded his work a C+. The animals knew better.
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“He is a self-taught sculptor, having taken just one college-level course for which he received a C+. He sent a ticket to his first Ohio museum show to his professor. Touche.”
“The patronage of famed Primatologist, Jane Goodall, gave his career a major boost. When Jane Goodall likes your portrayal of chimpanzees, you’ve done something good.”
“He sculpts quick clay studies while observing animals in the wild. How he gets them to stand still so long is beyond me.”
“He now creates abstract surfaces on his animals, having realized that the hyper-realistic details of his earlier works obscured the ability to see the animal’s soul.”