Steven Fland is a self-taught sculptor specializing in life size birds in which the wildlife species and habitat all start from a block of wood or piece of metal.
"I reside in Moravia, a small community in the Eastern Finger Lakes region of Central New York State. Upon receiving a BS degree in Biology, from SUNY Potsdam, I taught middle school Life Science for 36 years. While doing ornithological graduate work at Cornell University, I had the unique opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant for the late Dr. Peter Paul Kellogg. Always interested in art, another teacher and I opened a wildlife art shop during the summer of 1976. It was there I saw this particular form of bird sculpture for the first time. Having a desire to try my hand in the art form, I completed my first carving in 1978 and entered my first competition in 1979, in novice class. In less than one year, I moved up and began competing in open/professional class and in1982, I won my first of five "Best-of-Show" awards at the (now defunct) U.S. National Decoy Show. At the first New York State Wildlife Art Competition, I received first, second and third place awards. (The following year the rules were changed allowing only one entry per artist in the competition.)
My early pieces were highly detailed floating sculptures ( "decorative decoys") that in competition are judged on the water. Aside from having to be accurate to the species, in anatomy, color and posture, they must float correctly in a natural, lifelike attitude. I still carve floating sculpture but I have expanded my art to include a category referred to as "interpretative", which does not float but focuses on a more stylized, loose impressionistic approach. Another genre is a highly detailed non-floating piece ( "full size decorative"), in which the bird is set in a habitat.
Specialty commissions have included the creation of four vertical sculptures carved out of Basswood logs. These sculptures were originally designed for an Adirondack split wood cabinet. The poles were meant to honor the Haudenosaunne (Iroquois) culture and feature renditions of their clans, false faces and beliefs. When the cabinet was moved to a different location, the poles were removed; their paint was intensified and they are now installed in an entryway to a conference center.
All of my work reflects a desire to capture "the character of the bird" and its habitat and behavior. One of my sculptures is a juvenile Coopers Hawk with a Mourning Dove clutched in its talons, expressing the feel of an efficient predator. Whether it is a regal Canvasback, an elegant Wood Duck, a well fed Alligator, Snapping Turtle going after a duckling, a juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk begging for food, or a pre-copulatory pair of Cinnamon Teal, all of these pieces evoke an important action in the life of the animal. A recent carving of an Eastern Bluebird on a Pussy Willow branch, established the time of year.
The process used in all of these pieces starts with very extensive research including, at times, the purchase of aviary specimens to study. This research also includes studying the habitat that would be appropriate to the bird, such as Aspen, as opposed to Maple leaves in the setting for the American Woodcock. After research, a pattern is then drawn and cut from a block of wood which is generally Tupelo, Basswood or Black Walnut. From these blocks, wood is removed with knives, chisels, grinders and, depending upon the size of the piece and the task, I use a chain saw all the way down to a small tool that uses dental bits and turns 400,000 rpm. After the piece is carved, it is then textured and "burned" with an instrument that puts a knife-like cut in the wood using heat. This preparation creates a lifelike reflective surface, with natural undulations of highlights and shadows, on the sculpture. After developing the surface of the piece, acrylic paint is applied using as many as twenty, thin, watery washes. Metal is sometimes used for structural needs or for habitat such as a fall Goldenrod made of brass with the dried leaves made from various types of paper. In all cases, except for the eyes, I create the entire carving. The sculptures are all life-size renderings of the species depicted. They have ranged in size from a Ruby-throated Hummingbird to the pair of Red-tailed Hawks (the tallest piece ever displayed at the World Championships of Wildfowl Carving) to a piece of floor sculpture, in Black Walnut, of a Hippopotamus emerging from the water with two Cattle Egrets looking for insects on its back.
Composition is of major importance because I want to force the viewer’s eye to flow through the sculpture and still be of interest when seen from all directions. When viewing my work, look at the bird with regard to its behavior and the overall design, while at the same time remembering it is sculpted from wood."
Visit my web site : www.stevenflandgallery.com