Many years ago, on leave from the army at age 20, I found myself in Paris, at a café frequented by artists and writers. That night, I was privileged to eat and drink in the company of (if not in conversation with) men like Giacometti and Jean Paul Satre. A country boy from Wolf Point, Montana, this evening was one of the most illuminating of my young life.

That night, full of wine and inspiration, I missed a turn and found myself walking through the dark, winding narrow streets of Paris. Suddenly, the shadow of an immense man fell across my path and I stepped back, startled. The man, in fact, was the great writer Balzac, captured in bronze by Rodin. The figure was a bit less than life size and a street light behind it had created the huge shadow. I had never felt so alive in my life, meeting Balzac alone in the Paris night. I felt something of the greatness of the man, and, by extension, the greatness of mankind.

In a way, that’s what I think monumental art should do and it is what I try to do in my art. I create monuments. Monumental art has never been a matter of size alone. Indeed, some of the great monuments of Western Art are quite small: Etruscan statuary, Egyptian scarabs, Greek coinage, Renaissance medallions. For me, what defines a monument is the spirit in which it is made: a proper monument is a eulogy, a requiem, a commemoration, a celebration, a festival of what is timeless human spirit. A great monument is at one with the past, the present, and future. It is an exercise in entirety and elevation.

A piece like my sculpture Redwater – modeled after a working saddle bronc – is a metaphor, and is meant to be a monument to all men. Redwater lived and suffered and triumphed in the Montana rodeos of the 1970’s. A champion Redwater had become wary and skeptical. I sculpted him standing quietly, yet the pose is ominous. Anyone who has labored at the cost of his own freedom – and that, at one time or another, is all of us – will recognize the gesture. Redwater is significant because he is us.

In creating a monument, either large or small, I develop and refine the form by continuously abstracting – and sometimes actually deforming nature – to create a feeling of strangeness, anticipation, and awe. While I could build, say, an acceptable horse in an hour, I generally work on my sculptures for months or years. I try to invoke a sense of what is timeless in the human drama.

As I think back on my shadowed midnight meeting with Balzac many years ago, I realize that I deliberately work more with light than the actual anatomy of my subjects. Light bathes all things and natural light is arbitrary and chaotic. My use of light is deliberate. It is meant to define form and create tension, as it does in a portrait like the Titan. Light rides a sculpture: it whirls around and over and through a work.

This is a light meant to illuminate human aspirations.