Muncy Artist Captures History for the Susquehanna River Walk
MUNCY – Standing tall and welcoming visitors, a part of history will be permanently placed on the new Susquehanna River Walk and Timber Trail which is now under construction and will be completed later this year. The ‘Wood Hick’ sculpture has been painstakingly sculpted each day by a local artist in Muncy who had a vision to mark history by making a lifelike statue that would resemble our cultural heritage during the lumber era. The project is part of Pennsylvania’ Lumber Heritage Region, the Pennsylvania Wilds Association and the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership.
Pamela Madai Barner is creating this life size statue in her carriage house behind her home on Main Street, Muncy so that visitors can see how people looked during that era. She used old Sears and Roebuck catalogs and several old photos to study the clothing such as his hat, his suspenders and his boots. She carved each fold carefully paying close attention to all of the details. His uncanny lifelike resemblance is a true reflection of Barner’s talent. Formerly from Chicago, she married a Muncy native and now calls Muncy her home. “I love the rural beauty here and most of all the rich history this area has to offer. I am used to seeing three dimensional art and realism in a lot of places I have visited, and I felt that this community deserves to have a sculpture that shows how the lumber era contributed to our rich heritage.”
The Wood Hick as he is called, will be placed at an access ramp near the Market Street Bridge on the north side of the river. The walkway will be a four mile paved pedestrian loop on the levee and will run along both sides of the Susquehanna River starting at the Market Street bridge and crossing around the Maynard Street bridge. Interpretive signs about the lumber heritage will also be placed along the trail. He will be noticed from the highway and Barner anticipates that he will be a tourist attraction and a focal point to guide people.
He is called a ‘Wood Hick’ because that was the what lumber camp workers were called if they worked on the river on the east part of the country. If they worked in the western part, they were called lumberjacks and if they worked along the river, they were known as ‘River Rats.’ Barner also researched many photos from the internet, the library and the Thomas Taber Museum before starting to build the ‘Wood Hick.’ “I wanted to make him as realistic as possible,” she said. She started working on the project two years ago by building a small model first out of clay. Then she approached Mike Wennin, director of the Lumber Heritage Region and the Lycoming County Planning Commission about using a life like sculpture to help instill and preserve history along the proposed river walk. This can also be used by schools so students can take field trips along the walkway and learn all about their local history.
She offered to do the project at no cost but the final casting and bronzing will need to be financed through grants as this is a very costly process according to Barner. Her enthusiasm is clearly stated about the project as she explains how much she loves history and art and how the river walk gives her an opportunity to combine the two. “Let’s bring our history to the people. This was once the capital of the lumber era and we need more to show it,” she adds. “We can continue to make history here. One small change can change our entire direction, The Wood Hick is a choice to create positive history.”
Barner also creates watercolor paintings, oils and pencil drawings. She had a double major in college in therapeutic recreation, fine art and a minor in psychology which helps her with the anatomy and movement of muscles. “I see things as an artist. I was able to capture the forms of the body on the ‘Wood Hick’ with great detail. My style is realism.” Her artistic skills were revealed as a young girl when her mother, who was also an artist, gave her a sketch pad and markers and told her to go outside and draw plants in their yard. Her work is inspiring and she is known for her attention to great detail in her work. Barner is available on commission to do more work with sculpture and three dimensional art.
Constructing the Wood Hick
He was started in April. He is made from an oil based clay that is wrapped around an armature or the bones of the model that is the base of a good sculpture. Pipes, wiring and duct tape are all used to make the skeleton then clay is used to build onto the foundation. After all of the molding with clay is done, he will be sent next week to Laran Bronze Company, a foundry in Chester, Pennsylvania that specializes in bronzing. They also did the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. He will be driven down carefully by the artist in a U-Haul rental. Upon arrival, cracks and dents will be fixed and molds will be made first from wax. This is a very time consuming process. During the wax inspection, air bubbles are fixed and any imperfections are corrected. A ceramic shell is then made, the wax is melted and finally bronze is poured over the statue to make it lasting. Barner goes back and forth to the foundry to make the final inspections and check the patina hues. Colors are burned onto it so it looks old. This will take about eight to ten weeks. Next it will need time to dry then Laran Bronze Company will deliver the ‘Wood Hick’ to the site downtown. Even though the Wood Hick might be placed by this fall, the unveiling ceremony isn’t planned until next spring.