Ron Whitacre, Sculptor



Ron Whitacre recently celebrated 50 years as a sculptor with a one man show at his home in Laguna Beach, California. The show featured the artist’s newest works of welded steel sculpture which had never before been exhibited.


Ron began his early career in art with experimentation in oils, watercolor, ceramics, pencil and pen and ink, charcoal, clay modeling, wood and stone carving. Most of his work was in two dimensions (painting and drawing) but he always had an underlying sense that the paper or canvas was “just not deep enough.” His transition to sculpture came about after years of fascination with three dimensions and a desire to create “real” objects. He eventually began working in welded steel because he wanted to participate in the entire creation process, from raw steel rods and sheet metal to the final finished works without the need for kilns, casting, or foundries.


Ron Whitacre began life in a small town in southwestern Ohio, raised by his widowed mother and grandmother both of whom encouraged his early interest in art. He was already making sketches of friends and family in grade school and painted his first composition in oils at the age of ten. One of his favorite places as a child was the museum of the Dayton Art Institute, where he spent many hours browsing the halls and galleries.


As a young adult, he was thrilled to be able to begin his art studies at the Dayton Art Institute. In the late 1960s, Whitacre moved to southern California, first settling in Long Beach, where he enrolled in more art classes at several local colleges.


After only three years in Long Beach, Whitacre moved to Laguna Beach, attracted by the ocean and the artistic environment of the town. Almost immediately after relocating, he was accepted as an exhibitor, in the summer of 1968, by the world famous, juried, Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts,. He has since also shown his work at the Laguna Beach, International Art-A-Fair and in selected art galleries.


Whitacre was an exhibitor in the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts until the demands of designing and creating large commissioned works for public venues dominated his time. Much of his commission work over the years has been for religious organizations. These include two of his largest works, a twenty-six foot wide, high relief steel composition titled “Exodus” and a steel and brass “Tree of Life” wall sculpture measuring over forty feet across. His sculptures include many memorials and works for synagogues, churches, hospitals, banks and other public settings. One of his best known pieces, a fourteen foot sculpture called “Harmony,” has arched over the entrance to the Laguna Beach Art-A-Fair since 1998.


At one point, due to medical and personal issues, Whitacre was unable to work on the huge welded steel pieces that established his artistic reputation. During this time, lacking studio space and the ability to work with heavy materials, the artist returned to his roots, working in the pencil and ink to create detailed studies and portraits. He is very pleased that the issues which limited him for a time have been resolved. With a great deal of joy and enthusiasm, Whitacre is again working in his preferred medium, the creation of fluid and moving sculptures in welded steel.


Whitacre developed his unique style of sculpture over time. He employs both positive and negative space to delineate the anatomical forms of his figures. The graceful lines and shapes in his welded steel sculpture create movement within the piece. Their balance and lightness of feel is such that many seem to fly or float on air.


Whitacre is well-read and his interest in philosophy, history and the “social animal” all combine to compel him to portray figures from a variety of different sources and backgrounds. His love of grace and freedom is shown through the many works of dancers, acrobats, and the performing arts. He has also done works portraying the power and grace of animals, including horses, large cats, and bulls, not to mention the occasional dragon. Combining these subjects brings fruition to the depiction of legends, myths, and goddesses, some of his favorite subjects. His more worldly figures, female resting nudes and couples entwined, also have a classic, goddess-like quality that gives them a universal appeal.


Ron Whitacre has been associated with several galleries over the years among others, Studio Five, Laguna Beach, Ca., Zantman Gallery, Carmel, Ca., The Upstairs Gallery, Long Beach, Ca., Collectors Gallery, San Diego,Ca., and Forest and Ocean Gallery, Laguna Beach, Ca.


His collectors include:


American National Bank, Lancaster, Ca.

Laguna Beach Art-A-Fair, Laguna Beach, Ca.

Temple Ramat Zion, Northridge, Ca.

Temple Ahavat Shalom, Northridge, Ca.

Temple Akiba, Culver City, Ca.

Temple Beth Shalom, Long Beach, Ca.

Pacific Hospital, Huntington Beach, Ca.

San Gabriel Mission, San Gabriel, Ca.

Dr. and Mrs. Lawrence Pollock, Long Beach, Ca.

Dr. Stanley Bishop, Rialto, Ca.

Dr. Michael Wald, Hollywood, Ca.

Dr. and Mrs. Walter Havekorst, Cerritos, CA

Mr. Terry Antonello, Newport Beach, Ca.

Mr. and Mrs. Fred Stoffo, Staten Island, NY

Mr. and Mrs. Don Calaman, Brooklyn, NY




Artist's Statement


Ron Whitacre is an artist in several media although his primary focus is welded steel sculpture. He has chosen this as his medium for several reasons.


Firstly, it is a method of working in which the artist is doing the entire process from start to finish unlike the necessity of mold making and casting, as with bronze, or firing, as with ceramic material.


Secondly, when Whitacre creates a work of art it is truly “one of a kind”. There will not be reproductions or any kind of copy. Each and every piece is unique. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to this. The obvious disadvantage is that each piece must be done individually fromn start to finish. There are no real shortcuts. The biggest advantage is that the artist has control of the entire process. No armatures are needed, ( the sculpture is its own armature) no waiting for casting, no foundry to deal with, no molds to make. The finishing of the sculpture is done by the artist.


And thirdly, the speed with which the work can be done. Working with steel and a welding torch is a relativly rapid process.


The creation of a sculpture begins with an idea or a concept. Then it is necessary to decide how to intrepret that concept. This leads to what becomes a series of sketches, usually on tracing paper to make changes easily. After the sketches develop into an image that can be intrepreted as a sculpture the real work begins. Most sculptures begin at the studio workbench as a “stick figure”, steel rods formed into something resembling the basic lines of the figure or figures. “Line after line” is “drawn” by using the steel rods to add to these stick figures. Slowly the subject begins to appear. The solid areas of steel

and the open areas (or “negative space) depict the muscles and anatomical structure. Whitacre's sculptures are elongated and exagerated to emphasize grace and flowing movement. The open areas serve to “lighten” the sculpture.The surface of the sculpture is then melted and textured by using the torch.


Finishing the sculpture is done by buffing the surface with an electric wire brush. Then the piece is either sprayed with a clear enamel or treated with a patina. They are then mounted on a variety of bases made of marble or another stone, fine wood, or steel.

Whitacre strives to express strength, power and movement with graceful poses and flowing lines in his sometimes complex compositions with two or more figures or components.