30 Jun “The Journey:” Life’s journey in a sculpture
You’ll find it by Water Street.
Artist: Marion Young.
Bronze work by Jack Langford.
Ashland Neighborhood Art series.
Has your life journey included joy, pain, learning, humor, heart and obstacles to overcome? Of course it has. These universal human experiences inspired sculptor Marion Young. Her models for the artwork were local people, mostly Oregon Shakespeare Festival actors. She attempted to express twelve aspects of life’s journey through the twelve figures in this sculpture. Did she succeed? Come see it in person to find out for yourself.
Where you will find “The Journey”
The Journey is located at 51 Water Street, just one block from the Ashland Plaza. Behind a parking lot and across Ashland Creek on the west side of Water Street is the Blue Giraffe day spa. You will find The Journey in a park-like setting near the spa, with the soothing sounds of Ashland Creek as a soundtrack to your viewing.
The Journey: how it came to be
Marion Young moved from Los Angeles to Ashland in 1988 in order to sculpt the Street Scene commission, her large sculpture downtown near the intersection of East Main Street and Pioneer Street, in front of the Chamber of Commerce office. She was literally surrounded and inspired by the cauldron of creativity at Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF). For four years, her studio was located within the Old Scene Shop at OSF.
As she was sculpting Street Scene, she was also working on The Journey. As with Street Scene, most of her models for The Journey were from the OSF acting corps.
Young worked in clay. She spent many hours sculpting the likeness of each of her models. Her models I spoke with described four or five or six “sittings,” usually for an hour or two each time.
I am impressed by how much the bronze statue reproduces each nuance of the clay Marion worked with her hands. I will discuss the making of the bronze below.
I wrote about Marion Young’s life in my article about her Ashland public art sculpture called “Street Scene.” If you would like to read about her life, the Street Scene article is here.
Meaning of The Journey sculpture
Marion Young wrote: “Each of the 12 characters that circle this sculpture is a representation of one of the archetypes of the journey of life. If these figures have life, they will be projected upon by the viewer, in a non-verbal experience of the heart.”
She added, “I had been developing this concept in my mind for some time, so the spiral arrangement of the figures, their general identity and story and the cascading masques, creatures and beings to come were already set. I wanted our audience to recognize that this was both an inner and an outer journey.”
Young was influenced by the work of psychologist Carl Jung, who developed the theory of archetypes. They are difficult to define. An important point is that archetypes impact us on a deep emotional level, which is why Young wrote that she hoped The Journey would give the viewer “a non-verbal experience of the heart.”
I found this explanation by Saul McCloud helpful: “Archetypes are images and themes which have universal meanings across cultures which may show up in dreams, literature, art or religion. (Jung, 1947) Jung believes symbols from different cultures are often very similar because they have emerged from archetypes shared by the whole human race which are part of our collective unconscious.”
Towards the end of the article, I will quote Young’s description of the meaning of all twelve of the archetypal characters in the sculpture. Reading her descriptions may add to the richness of your experience as you view the sculpture.
The Journey … rediscovered
Sadly, Marion Young was not able to complete The Journey due to mental problems and early dementia, which caused her to stop sculpting in the mid-1990s. It was more than 90% complete at the time. Unfinished, it ended up in the basement of Young’s friend Margaret Sinclair’s house for about 25 years.
In July of 2019, local businessman and art philanthropist Matthew Haines learned of The Journey from Marion’s niece Robyn Michele Jones. Haines had been Young’s friend for many years, both during her sculpting years in Ashland and also during her illness. Jones put him in touch with Margaret Sinclair, in whose basement the sculpture had been stored. Haines rescued it from obscurity and brought it to experienced local sculptor and bronze artist Jack Langford.
The bronze sculpture: challenges
Langford had three challenges. First was filling in the details of Mephistopheles, the character Young had not completed. Equally difficult was working with the dry, fragile 30-year-old clay. He had to rework delicate, brittle fingers so that the molds could accurately capture every nuance of the clay without breaking it in the process. The third problem was deep fissures Young left in the clay between several characters. He filled in these fissures without affecting the details of any character, preserving the incredible detail of this complex 360-degree sculpture.
It is obvious from looking at the statue that Langford solved all three of these challenges. The biggest was completing the character of Mephistopheles, who represents our dark side. The torso, arms and face all needed work. In a description of the piece, Young had listed her model as Shawn Galloway, an OSF actor. Haines contacted OSF and received several photos of Galloway. This allowed Langford to accurately portray the unfinished face.
The bronze sculpture: multi-step process
Bronze casting is a complex, multi-step, labor intensive process. Each individual bronze casting is an art and a science, and both have to be balanced every step of the way.
Langford began the process by creating individual molds for each part of the clay sculpture. Each mold was made by painting a flexible polyurethane material over the clay in a small area if the sculpture. This material accurately captured each detail of the clay. A rigid epoxy-like material was applied over the flexible layer. Even though The Journey is only five feet tall, its complexity meant Langford had to create 35 molds of the clay sculpture in order to capture all the detail.
After the two layers were removed together, each flexible mold was transformed through many steps into a rigid mold made of fused silica powder. These silica molds had bars sticking out so Langford could grab them with his tools and move them around.
My wife and I were invited to see the next part of the process, which was an eye-opener for me. The silica molds were heated in an intense fire and then set on a framework.
Meanwhile, bronze bars were heated to above 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit in a special crucible, where they melted to liquid bronze. Then this 2,000-degree melted bronze was poured – very carefully, wearing padding and face protection – into each of the silica molds. Three silica molds for The Journey were poured the evening I was at Langford’s studio. The process was most dramatic as they did their last bronze pours into molds after dark.
After less than half an hour of cooling, Langford used a hammer to separate the silica molds from the now-hard bronze within. I winced as he banged away at the rock-hard silica, but there was still a lot more hammering to follow.
As you can see from the photos I took, small parts of The Journey came out of each mold. They still had to be combined into one piece, one sculpture. Welding parts together is done with the same bronze used to make the statue, in order for the completed welds to look seamless. Still, it takes a surprising (to me) amount of sandblasting, hammering, welding, clamping, grinding and polishing to get the finished bronze sculpture of The Journey we now see.
Jack Langford finished his repair and bronze casting of The Journey in the spring of 2020.
Preparing the site
It takes a lot more than just finishing the sculpture in order to place a work of art. On June 19, 2020, Haines gathered people who would help design and prepare the site.
Langford brought the sculpture. “Rock man” Jesse Biesanz was there to brainstorm ideas for the base upon which the sculpture would be placed, as well as surrounding stone work. Lighting designer Julia Rezek discussed with Haines how to light the statue and an accompanying descriptive plaque. Landscape designer Jane Alexanderr discussed ideas for a walking path with complementary plants around the sculpture. James Day of Solid Ground Landscape planned for installation of the new lighting and the plants. It is a 360° sculpture, so it requires a circular pathway to see the entire piece.
Installation on August 25, 2020
Matthew Haines called me at 9:00 am on August 25 to say that Jack Langford and Jesse Biesanz were about to install The Journey. When I arrived at 11:45 am, they had the statue on a chain attached to a tripod, ready to lower it slowly to rest on the slate top of the base. At this point, the statue was covered in plastic wrap for protection. With Biesanz on a tall ladder ratcheting it down inch by inch, Langford and Haines guided The Journey into place at its new home.
I took photos and video of Langford removing the protective wrap and unveiling the statue. I had seen The Journey before, but something about it finally being “home” brought tears to my eyes.
My tears were partly in sadness for Marion Young, for the tragedy of her inability to complete The Journey due to dementia striking her during the prime of her sculpting ability.
My tears were partly in joy for Matthew Haines’ determination to honor Marion Young by bringing The Journey back to life.
Who modeled for Young in The Journey?
Here are the archetypal characters as Marion Young named and described them in her one page description of the sculpture. Words in quotation marks below are from this document. Most of the models were actors at Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF).
“The Young Boy: A Magical Child, the part that knows everything.
Model: Reid Beels.”
Beels modeled for The Journey when he was just six years old. He also modeled for one of Marion’s small solo sculptures, which you can see in the wonderful photo he shared with me (above).
“The Joker: A wise part and one that keeps us from getting too serious – there is always a waiting banana peel.
Model: Patrick Page”
Patrick Page wrote that he “developed my love for Shakespeare” when his father Robert was an OSF actor in 1964 and 1965. Patrick became an actor and was invited by Libby Appel to join the company for the 1990 and 1991 seasons. He went on to Broadway, where he has starred in numerous shows, notably Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
“The Bosomy Lady: Our earthy, sexual self.
Model: Gretchen Rumbaugh”
Gretchen Rumbaugh modeled for Young in 1990, Rumbaugh’s last season at OSF. That year she played the seductive, earthy and sensual daughter of the Troll King in the production of Peer Gynt. After seeing the play, Young asked Rumbaugh to model for her in the costume she wore in the play. According to Rumbaugh, “Marion was attracted to me and my costume because it spoke to the symbolism that was already present in her imagination of the character.” Rumbaugh estimated that she sat as a model for six 2-hour sessions. She remembers Marion Young’s arm being in a sling as Young sculpted her during those sessions!
“The Queen: The dignity of parenting.
Model: Catherine Coulson”
To people in Ashland, Catherine Coulson was a beloved member of the OSF acting company for 22 years, until her death in 2015. To the rest of the country, she was most famous for being the Log Lady in the TV show Twin Peaks.
“The Young Girl: The writer of the script.
Model: Zohar (Zoey) Sirinsky”
Zoey is the daughter of Catherine Coulson and Rabbi Marc Sirinsky.
“The Warrior Woman: Power.
Model: Megan Cole”
Megan “Liz” Cole acted at OSF in the early 1970s, the early 1980s, and again in the early 1990s when Young was sculpting The Journey. She also had a television acting career between 1984 and 2008, including spots on Seinfeld, ER and Star Trek.
“The Dragon: In mythology, the Hero or Heroine must always fight or outwit the Dragon in order to leave the kingdom on their journey. We often create ‘dragons’ when we venture beyond the boundaries of our own inner kingdoms, so the Dragon is a symbol of our fear of the unknown and the guardian of the unconscious.”
Model: a dragon, of course.
“The Troll: (or the Hag) The unexpected, ugly little person who gives us the perfect advice or object for our journey. This is our least-liked self, sometimes the bane of our existence, which is always our best teacher.
Model: Sandy McCallum”
Sandy McCallum began acting at OSF in 1989, brought to the acting company by Artistic Director Jerry Turner. He retired from OSF in 2005. I remember him most for his comic roles. He died in 2008 and was eulogized by Tony DeBruno as “an actor’s actor.”
“Ariadne: The Heroine, the Creative, the Muse.
Model: Allison Grant”
So far, I have not been able to learn anything about Allison Grant.
“The Wise Old Man: The state of consciousness, the awareness, that we hope we become at some stage of our journey – or at the end – that we are all the parts and they are us.
Model: Rex Rabold”
See below for Young’s description of working with Rex.
“Mephistopheles: Our dark side.
Model: Shawn Galloway”
Galloway acted at OSF between 1992 and 1996. Here’s Joe Hilsee describing Shawn Galloway: “Shawn and I used to hang together back at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland many years ago. My favorite all-time acting story is about him. All of [those in] the acting company at the festival were classically trained at prestigious acting programs…. Well, Shawn one day decided he wanted to be an actor and heard the best theater in the country was in Ashland, so even though everyone told him he was crazy to think he could get a job there with no schooling, he shows up in a Greyhound bus with 200 bucks in his pocket and a bike in a box. And five years later he was playing Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet on the Ashland stage. That’s how good he is.” [Cassidy 2009]
“The Hero: A Parcifal-like figure, taken from a time of confusion, when he did not quite know how to be a hero.
Model: Rex Rabold”
[In Arthurian stories and Wagner’s opera, Parcifal – or Percival – was a “pure fool,” an innocent young man who searched for the Holy Grail and gradually learned wisdom about the world and about himself through the process.]
Rex Rabold modeled for both the Hero and the Wise Old Man. A beloved OSF actor for nine seasons, Rabold died in 1990 at the age of 39. What Marion Young wrote about working with Rabold is so moving that I will share some of it here.
Young had a powerful experience as Rabold modeled for her as “The Wise Old Man.” She wrote: “The Wise Old Man was a completely known entity to us both. He is the mystical teacher….” Then she described the sculpting process:
“Rex aged before my eyes: his spine sagged, his belly protruded, his shoulders sloaped [sic] and his head slung forward. He became a very old man. He cast a piercing look, at the same time that something of the compassion from the ‘Street Scene’ work came back to haunt me. After our first ‘roughing-in’ session, I came back the next day to find that I had sculpted a boney figure that was 25 pounds lighter than Rex. When he came in to work, I checked his measurements again and found that my down-scaled model was perfect. It was a complete illusion, so correct for old age, and I had captured it in clay. Rex was a consummate actor.”
This is how she summed up her deep inner experience of sculpting Rabold for both Street Scene and The Journey:
“I take a person into myself whole when I work – that is my own strongest intuitional channel. I was always so profoundly impressed to see how multi-leveled Rex was, how true and powerful and simultaneous each layer of his being was. … I simply have never known a human being who was so deeply honest.”
Dedication of The Journey: June 18, 2022
“This is a dedication for this piece, and it’s also a memorial for her [Marion Young].”Robyn Michele Jones
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the small dedication ceremony was postponed until June of 2022. Matthew Haines, Jack Langford and Marion Young’s niece Robyn Michele Jones each spoke of Young’s talent. Here are brief quotes from each of their talks about Marion and The Journey.
Matthew Haines: “I first met Marion and worked with her on the Street Scene project downtown, and we became friends. I wanted to do this to honor Marion: her art, her dedication, her talent and her heart.”
Jack Langford: Jack said that he never met Marion, but he felt like he got to know her deeply through all the hours of working on her sculpture.
Robyn Michele Jones: “Marion was my father’s sister and was my mom’s best friend. She didn’t have children of her own, so she was always at our family gatherings, and considered me and my siblings to be ‘her kids.’
“She was a world class artist. She was a genius. [The Journey] was her celebration of humanity and all the different aspects of ourselves.”
“I have been so amazed by what’s been created here. It feels to me like she’s here today. This is a dedication for this piece, and it’s also a memorial for her.”
Marion Young envisioned a sculpture that would capture the essence of our human journey through the challenges, ups and downs, and growth process in life. She was not able to complete the sculpture and it languished in a friend’s basement for about 25 years.
Then with encouragement and financing by Matthew Haines, Jack Langford transformed it into a shining bronze that captures the touch of Young’s hand on the long-ago malleable clay. The bronze shows every nuance of the faces and figures she created in her depiction of life’s journey.
Seeing “The Journey” in person can be a deep and moving experience.
Biesanz, Jesse. Interview and personal communication, August 2020.
Cassidy, Jason. “Arts DEVO goes Rogue,” Chico News & Review, December 3, 2009, accessed online September 2020.
Haines, Lloyd Matthew. Interview, photographs, personal communication, August 2020 and other dates.
Jones, Robyn Michele. Marion Young’s obituary, CaringBridge website, accessed April 2020.
Jones, Robyn Michele. Personal communications, photographs, written documents, May 2020 and other dates.
Langford, Jack. Interview, viewing of bronze casting, personal communications, May 2020 and other dates.
Leary, Kit and Cotts, Stuart. They researched several OSF actors for me, September 2020.
McLoud, Saul. “Carl Jung,” Simply Psychology, 2018, accessed September 2020.
Page, Patrick. Website, accessed August 26, 2020. http://patrickpageonline.com/career/regional/oregon-shakespeare-festival/
Rumbaugh, Gretchen. Interview May 2020.
Varble, Bill. “OSF mainstay McCallum a true character,” Medford Mail Tribune, October 29, 2008.
Young, Marion. “The Journey” description, no date.
Young, Marion. “Marion Young’s memoriam to Rex Rabold (my title, there is none on the document),” no date, but most likely 1990, courtesy of Matthew Haines.