An Enormous Amount of Fun

By Beacon Staff

“Now, look at it from right here,” he said, holding his hand a couple of feet in front of the piece. The sculpture, The Alpha Tree, represents three generations of wolves. “The black one is the alpha male. His father, behind him, was the alpha male before him.

The question remains whether his son, standing in front, will become the alpha male.” I looked from the prescribed spot and found myself face to face with the four penetrating eyes of two older wolves. The stare of the younger lacked focus. Obviously, he had better things to do than study me. Maturity would take care of that.

Whoa! It’s a static bronze sculpture and I’m interpreting the backstory as I look at it. “That’s the way it is for me when I develop these pieces,” he tells me. “They start out as an idea. I call it a daydream. But as I work in the clay, the piece evolves in my hands. The story develops. And it’s not just a matter of me telling the story in the sculpture, it comes to life and tells the story to me.”

I’m in the gallery of Ken Bjorge, speaking with this modest Bigfork sculptor of considerable note. I came prepared to record details of Ken’s life, how he spent a significant portion of it as a lawyer, as a professor of law, primarily representing real estate developers faced with environmental challenges. I came to get details of how, in a moment of irrational abandon, he left the law behind and moved from Spokane to Bigfork, becoming a sculptor in the transition. How he has nearly 100 life-sized and larger-than-life sculptures in place around the country. Bronze monuments of famous people. Heisman Trophy winners, immortal collegiate coaches, other people of note.

But that’s not where the interview went. Ken’s gallery is adorned with a lot of relatively small bronze sculptures. You could get the idea that Ken works primarily in miniatures. But then you learn that, for each of the small bronzes, there exists a monument-sized counterpart in Texas. Or Florida. Or New York. Or Bigfork. But that’s not what interests Ken and that’s not where our discussion went, either.

“I’m Norwegian,” he says with a slight smile, “and Norwegians have a reputation for being somewhat dour of demeanor. But fact of the matter is that I have an enormous amount of fun at what I do. Clearly, I love the sculpture work I do in my studio. But the greatest joy is the flexibility and proximity that allows me to spend time with the real love of my life, my wife Tammy.”

“Everything I sculpt is a challenge and I have to work really hard to create what you see,” he says. “But if it came easily, I’d have no interest in it. If you have an idea, a daydream, you can communicate that to someone in words and share the idea, the experience. But I find it remarkable that we also have the ability to take a daydream and communicate with our fingertips to create an object that embodies the daydream, an object through which we can also communicate.”

We stroll from the gallery into his studio, where a clay head of Abraham Lincoln sits on a table. “I’ve always admired and been fascinated by the man,” he continues. “We know the public Lincoln from history, but can you imagine what must have filled his mind when he was alone? Thoughts about causes of the effects he saw. And thoughts about the effects he created in pursuit of his cause. Sure I study the history, but still the man emerges as I sculpt his face.”

“I’m a practical person,” he acknowledges. “If something doesn’t have utility, I have no use for it.” And how does art fit into that scheme? “Art has the highest utility because it makes the heart happy. If you can look at something and it puts a smile on your face or a warmth in your heart, what more utility does it need?”

Ken Bjorge’s work is displayed in the Bjorge Gallery at 603 Electric Ave., Bigfork, online at www.BjorgeSculptureGallery.com, and on college and corporate campuses across the country.

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