Sculptor Reveals Lewis & Clark Bronze Pieces
Local bronze artist, Sunti Pichetchaiyakul, unveiled the latest additions to his Legends of the Americas collection, Thursday, July 15.
The Life-size bust pieces of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark are aimed to commemorate the centennial of Glacier National Park as well as the discovery of the West as part of the next set in his collection featuring American explorers and pioneers.
These are pieces five and six in Pichetchaiyakul’s collection that began with Native American Chiefs, including Chief Sitting Bull, Chief Little Horse, Crazy Horse, and Chief Joseph.
“There are endless possibilities of amazing individuals,” said Erica Pichetchaiyakul, Sunti’s wife and gallery manager who spoke and interpreted for Sunti. “He has so much fun learning about these American heroes.”
Sunti began work on Lewis and Clark in January. Each of the bronze busts, or sculptures from the middle of the chest and up, in Sunti’s collection sell for anywhere from $32,000 to $52,000. The chief sculptures have removable accessories, making them even more customizable for their owners. Twenty-five “artist renderings” will be made of each sculpture. Each is unique and customized by Sunti.
“No two sculptures are alike,” Erica said.
The next piece will be Sacajawea with her child. Sunti hopes to, in a way, honor and sculpt his own daughter, who is currently 20 months old, for the piece.
Sunti is known for his ability to make his sculptures, whether in bronze or resin, appear lifelike down to the lines in their skin, a particular challenge when working with bronze.
In his Native Thai culture, to be made into a sculpture is considered a deep honor and it is believed to embody the individual[s spirit, once a ceremony is performed. Gratitude is shown to an influential community member by having a sculpture made in their honor.
Prior to his move to the United States, Sunti worked primarily in creating fiverglass resin sculptures, particularly Buddhist monks, that look and feel lifelike, in addition to mirroring their real-life models.
He was able to bring one over with him, and it sits in the back of his new gallery on Electric Avenue in Twin Birch Square, startling passersby who mistake it for a real person.
Sunti, whose sculpting skills had a humble beginning, playing with clay in the river near his home village in Thailand, is known as the “Amazing One” in his home country for his ability to fashion life out of clay.
He has made dozens of television appearances in Asia and has been written about in numerous magazines and newspapers worldwide. He also earned attention and acclaim for his ability to sculpt a block of clay into a life-size bust of anyone in just 25 minutes.
“When I work, with clay, I enter into a soothing and intimate partnership of mutual respect and recognition,” Sunti writes in his artist statement. “In synchronized movements, my hands flow with the clay, massaging and fashioning the earth as it submissively awaits resurrection. This intimacy is what I love about sculpture; the profound and mesmerizing alliance I remember even as a four-year-old, playing by a river in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand…Sculpting sets free my passion for capturing and recreating natural beauty, inspires my imagination, and nurtures my soul in a meditative embrace.”
Today, he is trying to make a name for himself in the United States. He relocated from Thailand to Bigfork with his wife in 2008 and Sunti began work on his Legends of the Americas collection in 2009. “We came with a single monk (sculpture) and a little baby on the way,” Erica said.
In the United States, he adopted a new medium to work with – bronze – and a new subject matter.
Back in Thailand as a kid, Sunti played cowboys and Indians with his friends, which was partially his draw and interest in sculpting key figures in the history of the American West.
Sunti relocated his gallery to Electric Avenue from Saddlehorn’s Artisan Village this spring, a move aimed to make him easier for customers to locate. We’re very pleased with the space. We’ve had more traffic,” Erica said. “It’s been really rewarding for Sunti.”