Brenda Horsch says there are two people inside everyone. An Andale-based hair stylist for ?30-some years,? Horsch?s artistic side emerged in 2001 when she took up sculpture.
?I took it up because I wanted to make a church. I found an ad for a sculpting class, and I signed up,? Horsch said. ?Everybody was really nice and complemented me, and I thought I could do it. It?s fun to do, and the people in sculpting are easy to talk to and fun to be around.?
The sculpting teacher, Babs Mellor, told Horsch that she didn?t teach churches, she did people. So Horsch dove in and took classes every week for about 10 years. And she turned out to be a natural-born artist, creating pieces that now grace landmarks and museums near and far.
Locally, her sculpture of Andale High School?s Indian mascot, a gift from the Class of 1961, stands in front of the school. Two other pieces she worked on as part of a team of artists are in Wichita?a street sculpture of the Hypatia?Lady in front of Century II Convention Center and the Vietnam War Memorial in Veterans Memorial Park.
Another figure, while technically not of a person, is in front of the International Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo, N.M. It?s a memorial tribute to Ham, the first chimpanzee to make a sub-orbital flight for NASA. The bust, also a group project, was made by Horsch and her fellow students in Mellor?s class. Horsch and the class worked from pictures to make Ham, who died in 1987.
?It was a huge class,? Horsch said. ?I loved her (Mellor); she was so fun. People from Wichita and around the area took the classes.
?I never took art. In school I wanted to draw, but nobody ever acted like I could; teachers never said anything. Mom always had us doing crafts?crochet and cross stitch?something creative. We were always doing something. If I hadn?t made the church, I would have never gotten into it,? she said.
Eventually, Horsch progressed to the point where she started working on her own. Early on, she continued to make churches and religious figures, including a sculpture of a black Madonna that she gave to Holy Savior Catholic Church in Wichita as a gift.
Working in her home or at a weekly gathering of fellow artists and sculptors in a vacant room at Andale High School, she produces artwork for herself, friends as well as the Andale community, like the sculptures of children and a Berenstain-like bear cub she created for the Andale District Library.
Horsch also repaired a large, roughly five-foot tall crucifix that dates back to the 1800s for St. Joseph Catholic Church in Andale. It had been a fixture in the cemetery when it opened nearly 100 years ago.
When she found it in the church basement?an arm and a hand had fallen off?so she asked for permission to fix the aluminum statue and got the go-ahead. Sometime in the life of the figure, it had been painted, necessitating a sand-blasting operation and then a powder coating. During the powder coating process, though, the legs ?blew off? and had to be welded back on.
With the statue made whole again, Horsch worked with the religious education classes to have the students apply dabs of blue, green and red paint on the Jesus body to resemble bruises. All that remained was to remount the statue onto the cross.
But that didn?t go as planned, either. The wood that was used was still green enough that it warped as it dried, breaking off the legs yet again. After another operation to reattach the legs, the body was again mounted on a wooden cross and the restoration was finally complete.
Horsch hopes the ?new? crucifix can be displayed once again at the church in time for St. Joseph?s centennial observation next year.
Her home is an impressive display of her work, with bears, bird vases, religious reliefs, churches, Jesus, crosses, hands, and a genie in a turban, to name a few, decorating her walls, shelves and floors.
While some of the pieces are clearly inspired by religion, others come from nature. For instance, a statue of a bear cub and a pole is the recreation of a scene she witnessed at a cousin?s house in Colorado. Her current project is sculpting a still life of a pair of cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.
?I saw a hat I liked and told the man I wanted to sculpt the hat,? she related.
The man agreed, and she set to work using one of her husband?s boots for a model. Later she?ll borrow the hat for a sitting. She estimates it will take about eight hours to complete the piece. Then she?ll give it to the man whose hat caught her eye.
?I don?t sell too many of them,? Horsch said. ?If someone wants it bad enough, I give it to them. The payment is that they really appreciate it. It?s kind of like your child. It?s hard to give it up. You actually miss it when it?s gone.?
So, as she gives away a sculpture, she?ll put her name and phone number with the piece and tell the new owner that ?if you don?t use it and put in the closet, you call me.?
?You can tell if it?s precious to them or not,? Horsch said.
So far, none of her art, all one-of-a-kind pieces, has come back.
Having conquered people, Horsch is looking at moving to inanimate objects and a new artistic challenge as a potter. She?s already bought a wheel. And although she?s never tried pottery, she?s ready to try her hand at it.
?I?ve run out of things to make,? Horsch said. ?I only make them once. I can?t do anything twice.?
Pottery will be ?a way to keep my interest built up,? she said. The fact that she?s never done it before doesn?t bother her, either. Her approach will be the same as sculpting.
?I always thought I could do it,? she said.
For Horsch, maybe there?s a third person inside waiting to get out.
By Fred Soils