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Neighbors of DuPage

Local Figurative Sculptor, Guy Bellaver, Shares Work And Stories Behind Each Piece

Apr 05, 2019 11:15AM ● By Hannah Ott

"Pony" by Guy Bellaver

St. Charles - Local Figurative Sculptor Guy Bellaver created the well-known St. Charles sculpture, Ēkwabet. The 15-foot bronze statue, dedicated to the memory of the Potawatomi Native Americans, stands on the Fox River for all residents and visitors to appreciate. 

If you put him in a room and asked him to create a sculpture, more often than not that piece will be abstract – and even though abstract, his work always has a story, so the piece will always mean something.

"Figurative art is not as open to interpretation as abstract work; it is of value to find subtle ways to communicate the vision for the sculpture," said Bellaver. 

Over the course of the nearly 45 years that he has been a professional sculptor, Bellaver has been commissioned to create numerous pieces of figurative art. Artwork that represents people/things/ideas, such as the Kane County Veterans Memorial (including its centerpiece Citizen Soldier and seven reliefs), The Arts Together for the Batavia Arts Center and pieces such as The Brothers and William Dennison Cary that are sculptures of specific people. He has also created a large body of liturgical art. 

"Figurative sculptures often require a different process than abstract work – they are frequently commissioned to memorialize/honor a real person, so I try to learn as much as I can about the person being sculpted and those who are commissioning the sculpture to get a sense of the subject and the project," said Bellaver.

Bellaver’s first figurative sculpture was commissioned in 1981 – a stone bust of a Native American that he created as a demonstration for the Armstrong County (PA) Folk Festival. Even though the bulk of his artwork during this time was abstract, geometric stone pieces, he created a very strong figurative bust, sculpted from limestone, for this dedication to the area's heritage. 

In 1986 Bellaver was commissioned to create a sculpture of a Native American for a civic group in St. Charles. The resulting piece – Ēkwabet – is one of the most powerful pieces of art that he has ever created and an incredibly successful public art project. There is an entire web site devoted to the sculpture, celebrations of the artwork, Native American culture, and public art. Ēkwabet can be found in the Art Inventories Catalog of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. 

Ēkwabet honors Native Americans of the Fox River Valley, memorializing their forced removal from the valley. The figure is designed to convey three main points – pride, sadness, and, as a leader who has chosen a peaceful path (the bowl of the calumet is in his hand, which signifies peace), contemplation of all that his people are leaving and the manner of that leaving. The figure appears to be walking along the river, and subtle design elements (such as the calumet) are used to convey what the project honors and memorializes. Representatives of the seven tribes of the Potawatomi came to the dedication ceremony, and the following year they returned to perform a naming ceremony for the sculpture, calling it Ēkwabet – “Watching Over” – created by Billy Daniels of the Forest County Potawatomi specifically and solely for this piece. 

Pictured immediately below are Barred Owl (painted copper), Pony (bronze), and ...Tiger, Tiger (bronze). Bellaver created these pieces for his children Chenny, G. J. and Gordon to memorialize important times in their lives. 



Another example of the project approach of using subtle features to convey an important point is the Kane County Veterans Memorial in Kane County. The commissioning body wanted to memorialize the ordinary citizens who served and gave their lives in 20th century wars. The central figure in the monument is entitled Citizen Soldier and represents a civilian who has become a soldier, but is, above all, a citizen of the United States. He is proud to be serving – his pant legs are bloused and his gig line is straight, but he is “out of uniform” – he does not have his helmet on. Instead, he carries it under his arm, to show that although he is fighting a war, he remains a civilian. This subtle feature achieved what John Carr - the county Veterans Assistance Commissioner (a wounded and decorated veteran of the Vietnam War) and County Board Chair Mike McCoy wanted to convey – that ordinary Americans are willing to serve their country, and give their life for their country.

 "When I create a sculpture of a real person, my job is to make that piece as accurate a representation of what they look like and/or who they are as possible. This can be a challenge when there are no, one-sided, or "fuzzy" pictures of the subject or when the request is to capture something beyond the facial structure. But regardless of the images that are available, as with all of my art, I strive for a sense of movement or energy," said Bellaver. This perseverance can be seen in works like his bust of Mozart, which was based soley on paintings of the composer. 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - bust cast in bisque, based on a portrait by Joseph Lange. Commissioned by Mrs. Doris Hunt for Jeffrey Hunt, Founder and Musical Director of the highly regarded chamber ensemble, the St. Charles Singers in honor of the Singers' critically acclaimed Mozart Journey

"Doris asked me to create a bust of Mozart as a Christmas present for her son Jeff. We chose bisque as the material, and after much research, chose an image painted by Joseph Lange, an actor and friend of Mozart's, from a collection of images that you'd never know were of the same guy. Also pictured above is the latest "best guess" portrait by Joseph Hickel, a painter to the Imperial Court of Austria," said Bellaver.

Scott and Dena Prose commissioned the above piece - a bronze grouping of their two sons and labrador retriever which is sited in front of Prose Orthodontics in St. Charles. While the boys don't look anything like this today - they're well into their twenties - their sculpted images, titled The Brothers, mirrored them at that time in their lives. 

William Dennison Cary, below, was commissioned by the Cary-Grove Historical Society, Cary, Illinois, to honor and memorialize the founder of the community. The only image they had for Bellaver to work from was the daguerreotype in the picture on the right. Although he did have his senior picture (upper right image) to use as a model for the hairdo. 

Bellaver also enjoys sculpting pieces in honor of dear friends and family close to him and his wife. He "immortalized" their kids in bronze when they were 10, 8 and 5 respectively.

Jennifer Sisson created Bellaver's web site. She is a long time family friend, and one of their favorite people. Bellaver bartered a portion of the design work for this bust that Jennifer gave to her mom, Schley Brandt (another long time friend and favorite person) as a Christmas present.

Craig Campbell is one of the many Rotary Club Exchange Students that have lived with the Bellaver family. Pictured is Craig and the clay bust that Guy did of him. Craig lives in New Zealand.

The Liturgical Art that Bellaver has created since the 1970s can be found in Boston, Pittsburgh and St. Charles. Images of a few of those pieces (in limestone, wood, and bronze) are below.

Contact Bellaver: Sculpture - Guy J. Bellaver, 6 Aintree Rd., St Charles, IL 60174-1415

Source: Bellaver Studios