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Grandma Gatewood Brainstorming

20 May

Friday night was Grandma Gatewood night at my studio. I invited some members of The Houston Women’s Hiking group. Everyone has been so encouraging on the group. They have been posting their stories about the AT and sharing their thoughts on Grandma Gatewood, her pose, clothes, etc.

Wanting to keep them in the loop, I opened my studio to talk about creating a life-size sculpture and brainstorm some poses. I had already put a call out for models for the statue. These people will dress like her and pose in the pose we decide, and I can take reference photographs all around the model. Reference photos will help me with the folds, sculpting, and proportions.

After several poses, I wondered, “What if we had her going up?” Could we put her on a slight berm where she is going up and have some bronze rocks at her feet, like she is on the trail? It was a productive evening, though we broke the stick three times. We are still working out the design. Now on to finding clothes for my model. And of course fundraising. We still need to raise the funds for this project. Please donate at the Go Fund Me page.

Meanwhile, Paul Maxwell went to trail days to talk about the sculpture—more on that in the following posts.


How do you start a sculpture of a person you have never met?

8 May

From Bridgette Mongeon’s Studio
The most important thing is getting to know my subject through those who knew and loved her. I’m having regular conversations with Grandma Gatewood’s granddaughter and, of course, immersing myself in everything Grandma Gatewood.

I would like to video conference with other women who have studied her. Women like Dixie – Wanderlust, who studied what Grandma Gatewood used on her hiking trips and tried to hike like her. Or Ann Van Curen, who recreates her in performances.

What pose would people relate to?
What images of the many photos on the web do I use to influence me in my process? We have settled on Grandma Gatewood wearing pants. Although Grandma Gatewood used scarves, she will not have a scarf in this sculpture. She has to have her sack, which I’m told –
“Her bag was canvas, she made from fabric. She had more than one bag that she used over the years. Denim or khaki colored canvas sturdy cloth.”

I have posted on Houston Women’s Hiking, the hiking group I’m involved with in Houston, to see if anyone has the same body build as Grandma Gatewood. I’m not shy when trying to find models. Good reference photographs mean everything to a sculptor. I posted on my neighborhood forum when I was looking for a model for Alice in Wonderland. I told them I was looking for a little girl that was about 7 or 8 that I could dress up as Alice in Wonderland. I was also looking for a neighborhood trampoline so I could have Alice jump on the trampoline, and I could take pictures of her with her dress up in the air as she was “falling.” My neighborhood has seen so much of my work. No one called the police on me on that one. Sometimes I need a body model, as is the case of Grandma Gatewood. I’m told she was about 5′ and 110-120lbs, depending on if she was going into the woods or coming out. I learned she would more likely wear a dress while hiking the Oregon Trail, as it went near major roads, and if she were on the AT, for this statue, she would be in pants because I hope to raise the money for two and put one on or near the AT.

Like Dixie, who documents what she brought on her youtube station and how she dressed, I too will look for period clothes from that time. However, It won’t be for me but will be for my body model.

Meanwhile, while I’m working on another commission, my assistant will begin to build a small wire armature of Grandma Gatewood, and add clay to the armature.

Stay tuned.

Announcing— The sculptor of the statue- Bridgette Mongeon

4 May

Paul Maxwell announces the sculptor of the Grandma Gatewood tribute statue—Bridgette Mongeon.

For several reasons, we chose Sculptor Bridgette Mongeon as the official sculptor of the Grandma Gatewood Sculpture. First, her work is amazing. She is known for sculpting such celebrities as B.B. King, Willie Nelson, and Bill Monroe. Her monumental sculpture of Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter Tea Party, with over 150 hidden things in Bellaire, Texas, is one that everyone must visit.

Bridgette is all about history and capturing the essence of loved ones in clay. Her art studio will install a monumental sculpture of Booker T. Washington in Houston this summer. Recently she has been excited about focusing on powerful, strong women. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League commissioned her to do a portrait of Penny Marshall for her involvement in the movie A League of Their Own.

When asked recently by a friend, “Is there anyone you would love to sculpt?” She answered, “There is no one I can think of that excites me, accept Grandma Gatewood.”

Why does Grandma Gatewood mean so much to the artist? For years Bridgette, like Grandma Gatewood, would go into the woods alone. “I’m going in. I’ll be out in an hour.” She would text her daughter for safety reasons. “Great, Mom, I have your GPS; I know where to tell them to find the body.” Her daughter would joke. “Mom, please start a group.” And in 2016, she did just that. She started a Facebook group called Houston Women’s Hiking. It has grown to over 14,500 women in Houston, with 50 -100 new members weekly, and is changing many lives.

Bridgette has shown the Grandma Gatewood movie at her home around the fire pit with friends. I sculpt a lot of deceased loved ones. Someone said, ‘You develop a relationship with the deceased.’ Bridgette says, She looks forward to becoming friends with Grandma Gatewood during this journey.

Hiking for Bridgette is a family affair. She travels with her family monthly. Her Daughter Christina Sizemore is co-admin of the group. Bridgette’s ten-year-old granddaughter, another generation of hikers, is writing a book with her grandmother about traveling the Texas State parks. Christina is also joining the Grandma Gatewood fundraising team with a marketing and public relations background.

You can follow Bridgette’s work and progress on Instagram.

“I have a kinship with this woman I have never known.” States Bridgette. “She knew the power of walking in the woods, how it could heal, and how much the woods had to give. She knew how to encourage other women by simply putting one step in front of the other. We must celebrate her; a sculpture is the only way I know how.”

The Grandma Gatewood Tribute Sculpture is Coming!

4 May

The Ohio Valley Memory Gardens in Gallipolis, Ohio, is the cemetery where Grandma Gatewood rests.

He reports that with the movie Trail Magic: The Grandma Gatewood Story airing on PBS and the book Grandma Gatewood’s Walk written by Ben Montgomery, Grandma Gatewood is getting her share of visitors. People tell the story of courage, fortitude, and trailblazing of our beloved Grandma Gatewood. The project is evergreen, and the love for this woman renews through generations of hikers

“When I’m dead and gone,” Emma told her daughters Lucy and Louise once, in a tone that was certain and not at all arrogant, “They’re going to erect monuments to me.”

Please help us to raise the money to create this sculpture for Grandma Gatewood’s cemetery plot at Ohio Valley Memory Gardens. Also, follow along as we share the Grandma Gatewood Statue story.