Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The guitar

Ernie and David Zenteno with David's
grandchildren , Isabella and Noah Zapata
When creating this sculpture there are several ways that I can create the guitar.

  • I could hand sculpt the guitar with clay over foam. 
  • I could 3D scan Norma's guitar and have it reproduced in foam and clay
  • I could get a real guitar and modify it. 

For the budgets sake we have decided to go with the last option.  So, it was put in the hands of the family to find a guitar.  Ernie, Norma's brother and bass guitar player for the family band found the perfect guitar to be a part of this sculpture.  

I'm glad that they were able to do this. I may have to actually anchor the guitar to the sculpture and I needed something that it was o.k. to destroy. Even so, I'm a guitar player and hurting this instrument in any way will cause the musical muse and the artistic muse great dissension. 

The project is moving along. I can't wait for our photo sitting tomorrow with Angie, Norma's daughter.  

Lights, Camera, Action!

Lighting a sculpture is very important. Unfortunately there was nothing in the budget for lighting of Norma so we are trying to work with the lighting that is there.  We have two spots on the wall that we have been vacillating between. So we had a late night rendevous and took some photographs.

Monday, April 24, 2017

It is all about the family and friends and... food.

We all gather at the Brown Foundation on Harrisburg to pick
the perfect spot.  Originally Norma was going to be placed
standing in the gardens beyond this small wall. I suggested
She instead be mounted to the wall and playing her guitar. 

If you read my previous post you will begin to understand that the connections that I have and that are made to those friends and relatives of my subject are crucial to infusing life into the sculpture.

If there is anything that can make this sculpture "sing," pun intended, it is getting to know and hearing the stories of Norma. That is where you as the reader come in.  You know Norma, you have experiences with Norma, share, tell, teach me who she is, and slowly I begin to feel and see Norma. Then I see it happen over and over again, that passion is transferred to the clay and in the end... to the viewer.

Playing her guitar under the street light. I can't wait to get
started. I love the inspiration of the family. 
Here is one thing I learned yesterday- Norma was all about family.  I should have known that. I mean she played music with her family. But yesterday I felt it. And in doing so, it was as if Norma was right there behind my shoulder introducing me to everyone.

Plans were made to go to the proposed site and take some photo reference of Angie, Norma's daughter posing as Norma in Norma's clothes. Somehow that got lost in the translation of the day, and instead the entire family Norma's brothers  Ernie, Bobby and Javier, long with his wife Gloria, Norma's son Miles and his girl friend jackie and Norma's Daughter Angie and her boyfriend Chris all met at the place where the sculpture will one day reside.  Even Norma's mom Elsa Zenteno came.

Instead of being there for a photo sitting to take reference for the sculpture, the family all shared their thoughts about the placement, pose and outfit that Norma should be wearing. There were a lot of ideas shared, and when thinking about it— they were shared with huge smiles and a great deal of excitement that was infectious.  Somehow, I think Norma was probably that way—infectious in her charm, livelihood and presence.  One of the brothers mentioned their playing and said something like there is no longer a ... not sure the term he used, but when he said it a flood of pictures came to my mind. What was missing in this family band —the lead singer, the one that got the attention, that sparked the crowd on, flirted with the music and her brothers to bring a crescendo of intensity and involvement from both audience and musicians.  I never had the opportunity of knowing Norma. Right now I am sorry I never got to see her live in her element, with her family, creating.  I am sure it was something to experience.

We rescheduled the photo sitting for another day.  The family has work to do, in that we we need to see the placement of the sculpture at night. This means that the family will have to go and stage the piece to see what it will look like under the lighting that is already there. They will take some photos and send them to me.  Then, we did what close families do- we went and ate. I was so thrilled to be invited.

From left to right: Angie Hart (Norma's only daughter, first grandbaby),
Sculptor Bridgette Mongeon, 
Chris (Angie's boyfriend),
Ernie Zenteno, Gloria Zenteno, Javier Zenteno, Bobby Zenteno,
  Elsa Zenteno (Mama Z)

Those not shown, but there earlier in the day. Miles Towns Zenteno
(Norma's youngest son, who got the music genes) Jacki Davis (Miles girlfriend)
There is something about sitting down to a meal with the family for which I am creating a piece of art.  Believe it or not, in my long career of creating sculpture, especially posthumous sculpture, I rarely get to do this.  Many people I don't even meet as they live in New England, or Alaska or another state.  I am loving that the Zenteno family is here and so inviting.  I may often appear quiet at the table, yes even after a margaritta, but I'm absorbing everything and thinking.

Norma's mom shares a story of Norma when she was little and how she thought she would run faster than someone who road their bike.  She tied herself to the bike to prove it and came home all torn up. She smiled, the smile of a mom remembering. I looked at Moma Z and felt her love for her daughter, her strength involved in raising such a large family of boys and one girl- Norma- the oldest.  The endearing nature of the entire family toward Norma, and of total strangers that I have been introduced to. Many who meet me and hear about the sculpture project same Norma's name, with that same family sparkle.  This... this family, and friends, and love I can feel and inspires my muse.  How can I possibly infuse it into the clay, it is more than I have felt in any of my posthumous commissions.  OK Norma, I'll need some assistance here.

More to come:

Please contribute and share the news of this project. With your help we can make this happen. For more information about donations please visit the Norma Zenteno Sculpture Page. 

Getting to know Norma

Today was an exciting day as I met with the family of Norma Zenteno. I’ll soon be starting a sculpture of Norma for the family. The sculpture is of a vibrant Norma playing guitar while a dog looks on. The family will be placing this sculpture at the Brown Foundation Plaza on Harrisburg in Houston’s East End. The sculpture honors Norma and the work of Barrio Dogs. 

The family and I sat together and talked about the scheduling details, fundraising and contracts,  then parted, but at the last minute I asked if I could see the place where the family was installing her.

Let me back up a bit, If you don’t know my work, I am known for quite a few things in the fine art field. I often incorporate digital technology in my traditional process as I talk about in my last book, I love sculpting children, For a while there everyone referred to me as “the cat girl” because I created the Prairie View Panther for Prairie View University and the very large Grambling Tiger for Grambling State University. I guess recently people know me for the monumental sculpture of Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter Tea party. This ends a 7 year project which will be installed in November and can be seen on both the Facebook page and the website.

In walking this one path of creating posthumous sculpture on my creative journey, I have found that there are some incredible things that happen. It has been a while since I created a life-size sculpture of a deceased loved one. I had almost forgotten about the connections and unusual occurrences that happen when beginning this creative process. It is strange, unusual, wonderful and incredibly inspirational. I am also known for my sculptures of deceased loved one. For many, this may sound like a very macabre thing to do, but I love it. A few years back Texas Country Reporter created a segment on this portion of my art. I love developing a relationship with the deceased; I love helping families and individuals come together around the likeness of a loved one that I create. I love giving recognition to an individual and honoring their life through my art. I have written much about this process of sculpting deceased loved ones, and one day I hope to publish a book about it.

That is what happened today. On the way to the destination for the sculpture, I began to get a “feel” for a part of the sculpture. There is a thing that happens during these types of commissions that I can only describe as a “knowing.” Though it has happened over and over again with countless posthumous commissions, it never ceases to excite me. In the case of Norma, it is like she is walking beside me, causing things to happen or showing me how things should go. She solidifies our connection and is in the details, and slowly I get to know her and develop a relationship with her even though we have never met.  Yes, it sounds strange but, I develop relationships with the deceased.

I’m delighted with what transpired today. I can’t wait for our next meeting when we prepare some photo reference for the project. The family will be a part of this sitting, a loved one is taking her place wearing clothes similar to Norma’s so that I can get a feel for this. I love this. In creating posthumous sculpture, I have found that those sculptures that have the most life are those that have a strong emotional connection brought on by the interaction and sharing by those who knew and loved the subject. Somehow, their energy and love is fused within the clay. It is very exciting. I can’t wait for the up and coming sitting. I’ll share that soon. In the meantime. I have a new friend. She is not on this earth, but I’m having a great time getting to know her, and watching the light in the eyes of her family as we bond.

Feel free to help to infuse this sculpture. Share your stories to help me bond with Norma. These stories, help me to connect to Norma. Your love and memories are transferred to the clay and bring Norma to life. The Zenteno family has set up a website to begin to receive donations for this sculpture. Thank you for being a part of the creative process.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


Thank you for joining me on this adventure. My name is Bridgette Mongeon and I am delighted to be awarded the commission and the honor of bringing Norma to life in bronze.

I have been creating sculpture for many years. I love bringing to life the spirit of the deceased. One of the prime elements of being able to capture not only the likeness of an individual but the spirit or essence of that individual depends a great deal on the interactions that I have with those who knew and loved the deceased. The readers of this blog, the family and friends that share their stories and pictures will be helping me.  This is what connects me to someone that I have never known. In a way, you all become co-creators.

A couple of years ago Texas Country Reporter came to my studio and created a segment on my sculptures of deceased loved ones.  This kind of tells what I feel and think.

I'm looking forward to sharing my process on this blog and getting to know Norma, her family and friends.  As one person once said, "You develop a relationship with the deceased." It is true and I think Norma and I are going to get along very nicely.

If you have photographs or stories that you would like to share with me please do send them. If you would like to give me permission to share them here, please be sure to let me know.

Small images can be sent through email or through drop box or google drive.  Please send them to:  Bridgette (at) creativesculpture (dot) com.

Bridgette Mongeon.