Piece of the mountains

The wild kingdom runs free in James Carlson Gartin’s home. Gartin’s animals are studies in sculptur

The wild kingdom runs free in James Carlson Gartin’s home.

In one spot, a brown and white Walker coonhound has chased a raccoon into high branches. In another, three black bears sit at water’s edge and ponder options for lunch — three plump fish swimming in a lake below.

A mountain lion in full stride prepares to pounce on a snowshoe hare in full frenzy. Two pheasants in full flight leave a springer spaniel in full bark.

Gartin’s animals are studies in sculpture — detailed bronze artwork created inside his Niskayuna residence.

Dozens of these pieces will be on display and on sale Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Adirondack Living Show. The show, which salutes Adirondack artwork and rustic living, will be held at the Adirondack Sports Complex (also known as “The Dome”) in Queensbury.

Adirondack Living Show

WHEN: Friday noon to 8 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

WHERE: Adirondack Sports Complex (The Dome), 326 Sherman Ave., Queensbury

HOW MUCH: $9; children 12 and under, free

MORE INFO: www.adirondackliving.com

The show will have more than Gartin’s age of bronze.

“It’s basically everything from architects and designers, builders — and the builders include general contractors, log home builders, timber framers,” said Jeff Fraser, president and chief executive officer of Great White Productions, which runs the event. “We’ve got rustic furniture, that’s always been a mainstay, painters, carvers, sculptors, Adirondack artists. You’ve got things like Adirondack lighting, interior and exterior, custom handmade. There’s a lot of handmade in the show.”

Fraser, who founded the show, said between eight and ten thousand people attended the last edition. Shoppers are usually people who own or rent property in the Adirondacks.

Visitors can also be folks who enjoy the look and feel of mountain living. “Their piece of the Adirondacks could be buying a painting or a Jim Gartin sculpture,” Fraser said. “As they look at that great painting or sculpture in the home or office, they’re instantly transported to that place in the Adirondacks they like, love and hold in high esteem.”

Making a mark

Gartin, 79, who spent 40 years as an engineer for the General Electric Co., stresses he’s a sculptor and not a carver. He uses lost-wax casting, a centuries-old method of casting metal used to produce statuary and jewelry. Expendable patterns and molds are used, and the finished process leaves Gartin with a bronze casting he refines and stains.

He began sculpting in 1996. He had always known about animals, from hunting trips to places like Alaska, New Hampshire and the Adirondacks. Gartin’s art training came from his mother, Alice Mae Carlson — a longtime art teacher at the Brown School in Schenectady. She taught him when he was a youngster.

“I didn’t want my work at General Electric to be my sole accomplishment in life,” Gartin said. “I’m trying to make a mark with this sculpting.”

He’s produced more than 100 pieces during his days working with bronze and painted resin. “From small to big,” he said. “Moose, bear, little animals like fox, raccoons, chipmunks. North America has some wonderful nature, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, caribou, all kinds of deer. I also do hunting dogs. There are a lot of potential customers who hunt with dogs. I hunted with hounds myself, so I’m trying to do items that appeal to hound hunters.”

A matter of time

The projects can take time. “Everybody asks me that,” he said. “They don’t believe me when I say sometimes I can do one overnight, sometimes I don’t like it and it takes me a year or two to finish it.”

Gartin has been working on his latest project — a large white polar bear — for the past six months. He’ll work on bronze for different amounts of time at different parts of the day. “It varies with my mood,” he said.

People who look closely at the bears, beagles and birds will see the fine detail in Gartin’s work. Bighorn sheep seem ornery as they prepare to knock horns; a black bear climbing rock with a salmon in his jaws looks satisfied with his score. Dogs on the run have the thrill of the hunt etched onto their faces.

Gartin said he uses photos and television in his sculpting. Programs on networks like Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel and Animal Planet give the artist a chance to freeze favorites on screen and study their muscles in motion.

Target audience

“I get a lot of oohs and ahhs, but they don’t open their wallets,” Gartin said of his finished products. “Now and then, I get a good customer and they buy it right away. It’s a matter of presentation, where the deep pockets are. . . . I’m trying to sell to people who appreciate wildlife and hunting.”

A small beagle in bronze costs $125, on Gartin’s Internet price list. A piece that stars three brown bears, one with a salmon in his mouth and five other fish below the trio, is priced at $4,900. Some of Gartin’s creations are attached to heavy wood. Other natural scenes and players come on heavy squares of garnet.

Many of the animals will migrate to Queensbury this weekend. For now, they fill Gartin’s living room.

“My mother has turned over in her grave several times,” he said, smiling.

Categories: Life and Arts

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