Love of nature inspired sculptor’s Vail works
Art in Public Places Spotlight
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – Wildlife sculptor Stephen LeBlanc’s bronze work can be seen at two locations in Vail, Colorado.
One piece stands in Lionshead and the other is outside of the Two Elk Restaurant on Vail Mountain. LeBlanc’s sculptures are inspired by a lifetime of research and appreciation of nature.
LeBlanc, originally from Missouri, had a chance encounter as a young boy with Marlin Perkins, the former director of the St. Louis Zoo and television host of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” LeBlanc said that Perkins had “a huge influence” on his direction in life. At this early age, he recognized his affinity for the great outdoors and deep interest in animals.
LeBlanc’s family moved to Colorado, where he obtained a degree in wildlife biology from Colorado State and continued to hone his skills as a taxidermist. In 1976, after winning first prize in a national taxidermy competition, he tried working in a different medium. His skills in observation and preservation led him to bronze. Meticulously modeling his works in clay and then in wax, the models are sent to a foundry to be cast in bronze. This process can take up to six months.
“I want to share the joy I create with my hands in hopes it brings a smile to the faces of those who view it,” said LeBlanc.
In Lionshead, a life-size rendering of a bighorn ram, titled, “Rocky Mountain Majesty,” was donated to the town of Vail in 1990 in memory of Chuck McLaughlin, a close friend of LeBlanc’s who was an avid outdoorsman with a great interest in the bighorn sheep.
LeBlanc’s “I’m the Boss” stands at an elevation of 11,220 feet outside Vail Mountain’s Two Elk restaurant. “I’m the Boss” is a mature, seven-point bull elk bugling during the fall rut and willing to spar in order to maintain his herd. It was installed in 1999 when the restaurant re-opened.
“Vail Resorts was looking for an iconic symbol for the Two Elk restaurant, so I presented LeBlanc’s sculpture,” said John Cogswell. Cogswell has sold LeBlanc’s work for nearly 30 years at his Vail Village gallery.
LeBlanc’s sculptures are in many international collections, including the duke of Edinburgh’s and the emperor of Japan’s. His work is also found in major corporations and universities across the country, including the buffalo at the University of Colorado stadium.
He has received numerous awards throughout his career. In 1994 he represented Ducks Unlimited as feature sculptor at the organization’s National Art Show. In 1998 he received four best in show awards, including one at the Oklahoma Wildlife National Art Show. Last week he won best in show for miniatures at the Tulsa Nature Works Art Show.
LeBlanc was hired by Browning Expeditions to host a television series for ESPN2 and is about to begin filming the third season.
Join Art in Public Places for a free guided tour of the Vail Village and its art collection March 24 at 3:30 p.m. at the Vail Village Visitor Information. Visit http://www.artinvail.com for a calendar of remaining tours.
The Vail Daily is running weekly spotlights on public art in Vail over the next few months. Molly Eppard is Vail’s art in public places coordinator