By C. Robert Weisfeld, Bristol Herald Courier
Abingdon, VA (AP) – Self-taught sculptor Lynn Price is interested in knowing more people who either do three-dimensional work or want to. Although others have sculpted in Abingdon, Price may be one of the few devoting himself to its actual production, since sculptor David Spence migrated to San Antonio. The medium may intimidate a lot of people. But Price says he’s got shortcuts to success.
William King Museum of Art followers know Price’s studio is inside their back entrance, at the bottom of the stairs, on the left. He welcomed four Wythe County art teachers in on Aug. 3, and would welcome interested parties to join them.
“Or I’ll start a new session anytime I can get five together who want to do it,’’ said Price. “Not more than eight. I’d feel I was cheating students with over eight.’’
Price is serious about sharing his expertise.
“I tell you what: If somebody’s interested in learning three-dimensional art, come by my studio, put your name on a sign-up sheet and when we get five, we’ll have class,’’ he said.
Price grew up a confirmed townie, at 244 East Valley, the Arts & Crafts-era house presently owned by Gary and Susan Kimbrell. He attended Central Elementary, William King and Abingdon High.
“I loved every minute of it, even when I was in trouble,’’ Price said. “Wasn’t in trouble much, because my dad would have beat me to death.’’
Price’s dad was E.K. Price – everybody called E.K., “Red.’’ He was stationmaster at Abingdon Train Depot. His mom, Elizabeth, was a wheeler before she got married. Price had three brothers, no sisters. The oldest is deceased. The others live in Glade Spring and Bristol.
Once graduated, Price left for the District of Columbia and Winston-Salem.
“I spent four-to-five years working for the Corp. of Engineers for the army map service, in D.C. Then I moved to Winston-Salem, where I worked for the departments of engineering and inspection. I loved it there. It’s like an over-grown country town. I was there 31 years,’’ he said.
A couple of his pieces are in an exhibition at the Arts Depot, the second piece he ever did of a boy with bangs, and another, Adam, a baby with his mouth open, got Price some immediate acclaim. Yet he didn’t create more.
“At age six, I was drawing already,’’ said Price. “I had a good eye and I drew all the time. I like to say I drew my way through high school. Then it was time to go to work. When I turned 50, my girls were out of college and I picked up the clay. I’d studied under a lady named Erline King, from Winston-Salem, during my last days there. I did a couple or three pieces. No more until I came here, and got this studio, 22 years later. I’ve had this studio two years as of May 8.
Does he have a lot of finished work?
“I have all the pieces I’ve broken,’’ said Price. “I had 12 at the depot. I’ve got close to 25 or more. I average one a month, done from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. If I’m running behind, I go in at 8 a.m. I get most of my work done in the morning. I’m rested and there’re no visitors because the museum doesn’t open until 10.
“I love visitors! I’d rather have people come in than sit and work. I love children. I like to let them touch the sculptures and get a tactical sense of them. I remember being 10 years old, and being in and out of someone’s house when I was little. I played with modeling clay. This person had a modeling clay sculpture of a nude male, sitting on a bookshelf. I’d have to go up the stairs to get high enough to see it. I used to think about how much I wanted to be able to do that.
“I work,’’ Price said, “in terra cotta cream-colored clay. But I can make it look bronze with a patina. The base coat’s a green-black. The top coat’s gold.’’
Price shows a postcard, one side filled by a beautiful woman’s face in near profile.
“That’s Guinevere. She’s sold. I made 10 of them. I have one and gave an-other to William King to be auctioned off for the Art Ball. She’s hardly six inches high, the only small work I’ve done. It was hard working small but I liked it. I want to start doing some small pieces.
“Going to the studio has become a passion,’’ Price said. “I can’t not go. I’ve been going every day, even Saturday and Sunday, for two years.’’
Has he sculpted a lot of notable people?
“I did a Lincoln, who’s out in Texas. I did Washington and Robert E. Lee, inside the reference library of our public library. I did Bob Porterfield, 20 years ago, which is at Barter. It’s not really that good. I didn’t have enough pictures and was working mostly from memory. Knew him very well. Gave him my first dog, I’d like to re-do him.’’
Has he done full figure work?
“I have,’’ said Price, “but it’s very hard with water-based clay because all that figure’s hollow. You see, when I’m close to the finish, I cut the piece down the center. I lay one side down, spritz it, and hollow out the other side, then the other. I make a slip, thinner than toothpaste, dab it on both sides and it sticks like glue when I put them back together. Look at the handle on your cups or mugs. That’s how they’re done.’’
“If I’m teaching, I have open studio on Monday, Wednesday and Friday,’’ Price said. “But I expect people to sneak in and work on other days, and get time in. You need six days a week, three hours a day – 18 hours. Insist on it or you can’t do anything – 18 hours is about right to get a humanoid form. It’s hard work, not easy.
“Had a lady who took 12-14 classes. Thought she’d never get it. But you ought to see the work she’s turning out today – beautiful, beautiful work. I was in Winston-Salem, and I went into the hospital. And there was this beautiful life-sized mother and child. `Who did this?’ I thought. And I looked down, and there was her name: Grace Napper.’’
“It’s not that I want to go the studio, I have to. I can’t wait to get up and go.’’
Photos: Lynn Price at work in his studio