Soft-spoken Wayne Brungard walks through his Longmont studio and points out various works in progress. “This is what I do,” he says. His hands are busy fingering pieces of metal as he articulates what continues to intrigue him about the artistic design/build direction he has pursued for more than three decades.
Brungard’s portfolio includes entry portals—doors keep people out, while entries welcome them in—of impressive proportions for residences from Vail to Steamboat to Aspen to Jackson, WY, and more exotic locations like Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. His architectural elements and furniture, as well as functional and fine art sculpture, some of which hang on a wall, some of which stand in front of a wall and some of which are part of the wall itself, have found their way into personal collections, museums and galleries. And while the hands-on stage of shaping the work feeds his artistic sensibility, the reactions of the people who witness and live with his art is all-important to Brungard. His ambition is to respect the creative force within and allow it to evolve. His creative mission is “to please the eye, to gladden the heart and to enliven the soul.”
“I’ve been working in metal for the last 20, 25 years,” says Brungard. Before that it was wood and experimenting with other materials, but he admits that bronze has always been a favorite.
Recently, Brungard has focused more closely on bas relief and bronze sculpture. Ideas and concepts filter in and out of his mind; many have been percolating for years. Sketching in clean, simple, strong lines is a constant occupation. Once a design is complete and the texture, patina and sheen are confirmed, he crafts a small model to work from, which is quite a contrast to the striking dimensions and bold contours of the large-scale, finished piece of fine art to come.
As an example, his “Untitled—Bronze & Wood”—a stand-alone, screen-like construction—is more than eight feet high by seven feet wide and 30-1/4 inches deep. “Bronze Rug & Sideboard,” an exquisite table with a fringed area rug below, is a horizontal piece of approximately the same width and depth, but at a table height of 30-3/4 inches. The almost 14 foot tall “Bronze and Cast Glass Bas-Relief,” commissioned for a private residence in Steamboat Springs, soars from the top of a fireplace opening to just below the ceiling.
“What I like about bronze is the incredible variations. I can cast it, forge it, work the patina,” Brungard says. When satisfied with the overall feel of a piece, it’s time to get down and dirty and weld the sections together. The welds are then chased, meticulously making each weld line disappear. Etching and/or chemical cleaning follow.
While the range of available patinas is truly remarkable—from whites to reds to lapis blues, brown, blacks and the typical verde—Brungard is very careful with color. “I am more interested in using the color to accentuate the form,” he notes, indicating a sculpture that originally had a blue-green patina. “I decided against the blue-green because the color was distracting. It took away from the form; all you saw was the color.” The final patina is often an amalgamation of several applications of patina. “Some of these may be applied cold, but the majority iare applied while the material is hot,” Brungard explains. “The strength of the patina chemical, as well as the degree of heat to which the material is brought and the method of applying the solution, determines the final color and shade of the patina. The application of a patina to achieve the desired results is more of an art than a science."
A World of Inspiration
For Brungard, inspiration is everywhere. His artist’s eye searches out patterns in rock formations, clouds and even the way mud cracks and crumbles when the sun bakes out the moisture. “One time I had a bowl of ice cubes that were melting into wonderful shapes” he says, referring to these observations as departure points. Generally, he has four or five projects going at a time and about a dozen models waiting to be refined and crafted. His work is singular. “I don’t like production work, and doing two of a kind is production work,” he concludes.
This self-taught artist had the desire to design and build from a very young age. His earliest accomplishments included an airplane and a table with chair, created when he was about eight years old. The body of work has grown, the materials have changed, but the motivation still remains the same. Rather than admiring it from a distance, Brungard is pleased when people touch his work. “Hopefully, this means that it has touched them,” he smiles.
Marge D. Hansen is a Broomfield, Colorado-based freelance writer/editor and a regular contributor to Colorado Expression and Architecture & Design of the West. Her articles appear in a variety of lifestyle magazines and websites.