Monikers matter for local artist’s bronze sculptures
Gigantic Pig Antic.
Four and Twenty.
Will You Marry Me?
The Potato Poobah.
The Dingaling Family.
These are only a few of the names that are as whimsical and as intriguing
as the bronze pieces sculptor Susan Read Cronin has given them.
“The names give the viewer an idea about what I was thinking as I was working,” Ms. Cronin told the News-Press. “One time I couldn’t get the song about ‘Four and Twenty Blackbirds Baked in a Pie’ out of my head, which was the start of ‘Four and Twenty.’ Then, I wondered how I could make a sculpture that looked like 24 blackbirds in a pie.”
The Montecito resident said she almost always starts out “wondering. . . like I may see a blob in my clay pile and wonder what it is. For instance, I had thrown the two carrots from ‘Growing Close’ back into the recycle pile to melt back down after I cast them. I pulled one of the melted misshapen carrots and wondered if it might be an elephant trunk.
“Next thing, I knew ‘Lucky’ the elephant showed up.”
Whether it’s elephants, dogs, mice, vegetables or people, all her sculptures have one thing in common — they fulfill her goal of getting the same reaction from viewers.
“Pleasure, enjoyment, smiles, lightbulbs going off, laughing out loud, falling to the rug weeping, ‘Ah Ha!s,’ sobs, quizzical looks . . . second looks and double takes — the point of my work is to have fun and to have people view the world from a different perspective,” said Ms. Cronin, who has a studio in Summerland.
She and her husband, Ted Cronin, who moved to Montecito in 2016, have
two sons, Read, 43, and Wright, 40, and three grandchildren.
“My work is generally figurative. It is purposely not highly accurate. I am more interested in gestures and feelings than the exact duplication of a living thing. I care about silhouettes and loosely modeled surfaces. Most of my work has a message or a story behind it.”
Educated at The Madeira School in McLean, Va., she developed her passion for art and design while studying for her bachelor’s degree at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass.
“I didn’t become serious about sculpting until our house caught on fire while we were living in Manchester, Vt., in 1997. After a year of dealing with the insurance company, I needed to do something creative to feed my soul. I took classes with renowned sculptors Jane B. Armstrong and Walter Matia,” said Ms. Cronin.
Three years later, she had her first solo show called “Fables, Foibles and Fairy Tales,” which traveled to 18 museums around the country.
“Part of the challenge of working in bronze is that I need to have a clear vision of what something will look like when it’s translated into a different medium i.e. from the initial clay to the final bronze,” said Ms. Cronin. “Bronze casting is a team sport. At the foundry, I depend on others to make my art look good. Sometimes interesting things happen there, which can take a piece even further down the trail.
“When I bring a finished piece home from the foundry, I put it in my kitchen, where I live with it. I like to interact with my work and often make multiples that I arrange and play with rather than putting them on a bookshelf.”
Her limited edition sculptures range in price from $450 to $12,800.
She has had solo exhibitions of her work in Vermont at Tilting at Windmills Gallery and the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester, Artisan Designs & Gallery in Brattleboro and the Carving Studio & Sculpture Center in West Rutland; Harrison Gallery in Williamstown, Mass,; Williams Club in New York City and Visions West Galleries in Denver.
Ms. Cronin is also the author of “Bronze Casting in a Nutshell,” which is illustrated by her father, the late A.D. Read, a cartoonist.
When everything closed down during the pandemic, including the foundry she used, Masters in Metal in Oxnard, Ms. Cronin focused on her other passion, writing poetry.
Her first book, “Notices,” was published in June 2020, and “Open” was released several months ago.
According to Ms. Cronin, a reviewer named Peter Darling wrote the following about “Open,” which can apply to “Notices” also: “This is a collection of lovely, focused, short poems that are almost alarming in their intensity. They’re about everything — death, loss, doubt, the push-and-pull of family, and most of all, the moments during the day-to-day that, if you’re paying attention, stop you in your tracks.”