Sculpting a Hero

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sculpting a Hero
Written by Janis Gibson Redding CT Pilot
Thursday, 17 June 2010 14:00

Janice Mauro with her sculpture of Master Sergeant Homer L. Wise, Medal of Honor winner. —Photo by Janis Gibson.

Redding artist and sculptor Janice Mauro has recently worked on a commissioned project that has a rare subject.

“During World War II, 16 million men and women served. Only 464 received the Medal of Honor, of whom 266 received it posthumously. That statistic alone compels us to honor this hero,” said James Vlasto of Stamford at the September 2008 launch of a $150,000 fund-raising drive to erect a bronze statue of Master Sergeant Homer L. Wise (1917-1974). Sgt. Wise, who was raised in Baton Rouge. La., but married Stamford native Madolyn DiSesa and settled in that city after the war, was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in Magliano, Italy, on June 14, 1944.

Ms. Mauro has been commissioned to create the statue, which will be erected in the Homer L. Wise Memorial Park at Bedford and Chester Streets in Stamford.

“I was very honored to be selected to create this statue of Homer,” said Ms. Mauro, “and even more so as I got to know more about the man.” One of the most decorated infantrymen of World War II, Sgt. Wise also received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, three Purple Hearts, and 11 other decorations.

Creating maquettes (small samples) made of wax, Ms. Mauro presented the committee with a choice of three poses for the statute: standing, seated on bench or portrait bust. The standing pose was selected. She then created a 30-inch-high version, which can be seen on the website, that gave detail to gesture and attitude. She is now completing the 6-foot, 5-inch version from which the bronze statue will be cast using the lost wax method.

Any sculpture in bronze is a complicated endeavor. “It takes an army of people to take a statue from concept to finished product,” she said. “My job is to to design it to show Homer’s character, his inner strenth, in his face, in his pose and gestures... he stands solidily, sholders back, head to the side, his brows are knitted.

“If you look at Michelangelo’s David,” she continued, “he’s looking at Goliath and wondering if he would survive; Homer was faced with a huge thing, and he made it. In creating a war piece, you want to show conern in his face that we would learn something.

“The emotion in his face is a large part of the stature; all figurative sculture must have that. His feet are firmly planted, his head turning, what is going to happen next? What is the future? I want to show that through his gestures and expression,” she said.

To help achieve the effect she was looking for, Ms. Mauro’s husband, local wine expert Francois Saudeau, posed for her, moving under her direction to get the stance, posture, head turn and other gestures just right. A friend who’s a uniform collector loaned her a piece from his collection so she would be accurate in the details of Homer’s jacket.

Sculpting a Hero

Preliminary studies for the statue of Sgt. Wise. —Photo by Janis Gibson

She is creating the statue in her home studio, called Goodwood Studio, which was constructed from a falling-down porch with 12 broken windows that was converted into a two-story art space when she and her husband moved to Redding eight years ago. Upstairs is a cathedral ceilinged display space for her finished work, while downstairs is the concrete-floored working studio.
In addition to her bronze work, Ms. Mauro is a sculptor in traditional materials, including clay, terra cotta and wax, and enjoys carving, but prefers wood to the physical demands of stone. She also draws and occasionally paints, but scupture is her first love.

Ms. Mauro has modeled heads for Nickelodeon’s Rug Rats and has done puppet, hand and mask modeling for productions by Julie Taymor, including The Lion King, Juan Darien, Fool’s Fire and Transposed Heads. She has also modeled marionettes for Eva Le Gallienne’s Broadway production of Alice in Wonderland and served as studio adjunct for New York artist Richard McDermott Miller (1912-2004) for 30 years.

“I learned everything from Richard,” she said. “I was a bronze chaser, patina person — applying the color chemically — green, black, brown. Homer will be chestnut brown; color is important.”

She noted that there are many other people involved in a statue’s creation other than the sculptor. The foundry, which does the physical casting, “is crucial,” as is the work of the bronze chaser who removes the mold marks and makes sure the piece is as perfect as possible; she will be doing much of that work herself. The statue has to be mounted and installed on site, which is designed by a landscape architect. It should be ready in September, but the 501(c)(3) committee is still doing fund-raising. For more information about Sgt. Wise and the project to honor him, visit

Ms. Mauro, who also teaches sculpture at the Silvermine Arts Guild in New Canaan and at the Art School at Old Church in Demarest, N.J., will be a participant in the 21st Annual New Jersey Small Works Show at Mikhail Zakin Gallery, 561 Piermont Road, Demarest, June 19 to July 16. A 2007 sculptor in residence at Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina, a National Historic Landmark, she is presenting a workshop there this week. Her sculpture, The Source, entered the Brookgreen collection in 2008. For more information on Ms. Mauro’s work,

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