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Stories

Frank Farrar
The always dapper Frank Farrar with Suzie and me at the Governor’s Breakfast before the TOG unveiling.

The always dapper Frank Farrar with Suzie and me at the Governor’s Breakfast before the TOG unveiling.

I mentioned in a previous post that Frank Farrar was at the recent unveiling of the Trail of Governors sculptures. In fact, he has been at every one of the unveilings since they began in 2011. His portrait was the second one I made for the Trail of Governors. I visited Frank in his hometown of Britton, SD, to learn more about him before I decided how I was going to portray him and to take reference photos and measurements. We spent several hours together and long before we were done I became a big fan of Frank Farrar. His easy-going manner and self-deprecating sense of humor are rare qualities in someone so accomplished.

Frank was Attorney General from 1963 to 1969, and Governor from ‘69 to ‘71. He would be sure to tell you, too, that he was the only Republican incumbent ever to lose a gubernatorial election to a Democrat in South Dakota. A fact which caused him to think twice about pursuing public office, and focus on business in the private sector where he has been very successful in the banking business.

But there is another side to Frank that I found fascinating and inspiring. Frank was into exercise way before it was cool. While he was Attorney General, he could be seen running every day in the streets of Pierre, something that adults just didn’t do in the 60’s. Or he might go down to the Missouri and swim a mile or two. I’ll bet a lot of people thought he was a bit off, but it worked for Frank. He kept on running and swimming and went on to complete 35 IronMan length triathlons. (That’s a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a marathon, one after the other.) Even now, at 90, he still takes part in shorter races. He credits his running lifestyle with helping him defeat lymphatic cancer in his 60’s, and his vitality today is something to see.

It became obvious to me that a portrait of Frank Farrar would need to make at least a passing reference to such a big part of his life, and it wasn’t long before I came up with this idea.

I ran across this picture of Frank’s sculpture in progress, with the remnants of the George W. Bush clay in the background. W seems to approve of it so far.

I ran across this picture of Frank’s sculpture in progress, with the remnants of the George W. Bush clay in the background. W seems to approve of it so far.

The Frank Farrar bronze in place, on Sioux Avenue, on the North side of First National Bank in Pierre. Not really  my favorite placement for the piece.  If you’re not used to it, it can be a little disconcerting driving up the street and seeing a guy about to dash in front of you. Someone once did hang a $$$ sack from his hand just for fun, though.

The Frank Farrar bronze in place, on Sioux Avenue, on the North side of First National Bank in Pierre. Not really my favorite placement for the piece. If you’re not used to it, it can be a little disconcerting driving up the street and seeing a guy about to dash in front of you. Someone once did hang a $$$ sack from his hand just for fun, though.

Jim MaherComment
Trail of Governors 2019 - Governor Dennis Daugaard
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The latest edition of the Trail of Governors sculptures was unveiled June 14 in the Rotunda of the Capitol in Pierre. This year, I had the privilege of sculpting the portrait of Dennis Daugaard, the 32nd Governor of South Dakota. I portrayed him making the sign for “I love you,” in American Sign Language. My comments introducing the sculpture follow.


This sign means, I love you, in ASL. As the child of deaf parents, it was probably one of the first words Dennis Daugaard “heard” or learned.

To acknowledge that aspect of his life was something that the governor and his family wanted to do in this sculpture.

I liked the idea too, but thinking about the work, in the context of a bronze figure standing alone along a sidewalk in Pierre, making a hand gesture that most people would not understand, seemed like it might be a little strange.

Other references that we considered seemed more plausible to me. He could be holding a shovel to represent work that was done fighting the flooding along the Missouri in the early part of his administration and also to commemorate the more than 500 trees planted on the Capitol grounds.

The governor is proud of the fact that he was a good steward with the peoples money. That he was frugal. Ok, That he was a penny pincher! That was easy enough to work into the concept. There is a rumor going around that I have incorporated the first penny that the Governor ever made into the sculpture, but it’s not true. He wouldn’t let me have that one.

The other thing that I surely wanted to make central to the work was his smile. The warmth and optimism of his nature comes through so readily in his smile.

But still, there was that Sign. I had my sons model the pose for me. They’re not as tall, but about right for lankiness. I took pictures of them -- with the shovel and with the penny. Making the sign and not making the sign.

The sign -- it just looked to me like they were doing some kind of gang thing.

So I decided to forego the sign and just go with the shovel and the penny and the smile.

I went to work sculpting the head, the likeness, first and got it pretty well along. The governor looked pretty happy. Then I roughed in the figure. Got his stance, had both hands up where he would be holding the shovel, Then it was time to try the head up on the shoulders. When I did that, I started to hear it, the governors voice Do the sign, it’ll be ok! Something about his smiling face made it work for me, made me believe.

We installed the piece later that same day on the East side of Capitol Lake. We will get back to Pierre soon to try to get some better photos with morning light.

Chris Classen and the City of Pierre crew installing with me.  Trail of Governors sachem Leroy Foster supervising.

Chris Classen and the City of Pierre crew installing with me. Trail of Governors sachem Leroy Foster supervising.

Jim MaherComment
New Look for the Website
Former Governors Dennis Daugaard and Frank Farrar at the 2019 Trail of Governors unveiling ceremony.

Former Governors Dennis Daugaard and Frank Farrar at the 2019 Trail of Governors unveiling ceremony.

Been promising to renovate this site for some time and have finally done it — more or less. It has a new look and I intend to keep it a little more relevant. Not least because I have to relearn how to use the software every time I come back to it after several months of neglect.

I thought it might be nice to have more of a sampler of my work than trying to catalog everything I’ve done over the years. The gallery now is a more or less series of detail shots. I may, in the future, link those shots to more extensive photos of the entire work but that will be down the road.

In this space I plan to tell the stories of what I am working on, or installing, or stuff from way back when. I will try to stick to sculpture related news, and stay out of the kind of trouble I might get into discussing current events.

If you have followed me this far, thanks very much. Let me know what you think about the changes if you like and please feel free to ask any questions.

Jim

Jim Maher