It’s the face that’s really important to Jim Brothers. He wants to capture emotion.
“If I don’t, then it was just a waste of time,” he said.
But overall, the face is just a small part of Brothers’ newest 8-foot-tall statue, titled “Homage.” Brothers has spent more than a year designing and creating the cast bronze soldier that will be on display from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Lawrence Visitors Center, 402 N. Second St. in North Lawrence. The piece will also be on display May 29 in Gage Park in Topeka for Memorial Day. The statue will then head to its permanent destination, the Wine Street Memorial in Culpeper, Va.
Brothers has been sculpting for years and has a number of soldier statues at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. Brothers, who’s based in Lawrence, originally started designing “Homage” for Gage Park, but when fundraising was stalled he sold the first casting to Culpeper.
The 800-pound soldier honors World War II and Korean War veterans. It depicts a soldier standing and gazing at a field cross, a soldier’s rifle stuck in the ground with his helmet on top.
For Brothers, sculpting World War II soldiers takes him back to his childhood, when his mother worked in the Beech aircraft company’s office along with all the other “Rosie the Riveters.”
“I was so aware of the war. I get to honor the people who were important to me as a child,” he said.
The process of coming to the finished statue is a long one. First, there’s research, which he likes despite hating history in high school. Then there’s the planning, which he said can be cumbersome. He builds a mini version of his sculpture. Next comes an armature, built up to rudimentary shapes with foam and perfected with clay. Later he’ll make a mold, into which bronze melted at 2,100-degrees will be poured.
The statues are made in pieces, but throughout construction the seams disappear. The last step is the patina, which gives the statue its brownish-green color. Brothers and his crew were finishing this step a few weeks before Memorial Day, before the soldier was set to make a stop in Topeka.
The final product is one he hopes will be a figure viewers can relate to and understand.
“If you do something they can relate to, they appreciate it,” he said. “They’re all based on somebody.”
Rance Sackrider, executive director of Gage Park Memorial Inc., said “Homage” was supposed to be the centerpiece of its memorial. The group has only 21 percent of the total cost of the statue raised, so he hopes the day-long display will get people interested in donating.
“Topeka has the chance to be in on something on the level of the Washington, D.C., monument,” he said.
The group is selling bricks in honor of veterans in the park, and the statue will be on display there from noon until sunset on May 29.
Then it’s off to Virginia, where the soldier will go on a granite base in Wine Street Memorial Park.
Brothers said he knows it’s cliché, but he wants the statue to convey that freedom isn’t free, and that people get hurt and sacrifice during war.
“He’s paying homage just like you or me, but we join him,” he said.