Observing body language, particularly the many subtle nuances of facial expressions, is one of Walt Horton's special talents. His love of capturing emotion-filled human gestures in bronze is reflected in his series of sculptures centered around children engaged in a variety of simple and adventuresome activities.
"I like people, and I've never met someone I didn't like once I got to know them. I enjoy studying people's facial expressions, and there are thousands of them. Each one means something different. These gestures are important to human communication, and yet I feel most people have lost the ability to understand each other through facial mobility." Horton's bronze children are alive with expression. Whether a young boy is reading a childhood story to his favorite teddy bear or a little girl is encountering a wild moose during a walk in the woods, each child communicates emotions felt at the moment of experience. "There's a genuineness and innocence with kids. II Horton explains. "They are so much more real than grownups. I have found that when adults view my work. they often feel moved and reconnected with memories of childhood."
Although Horton, who has had a long and prolific career as a cartoonist, bas only been a sculptor since 1993, the seeds of his skill were planted many years ago. After studying for one year at the University of Colorado, where he met his wife, Peggy, he decided that formal schooling wasn't for him. The couple left the United States in the middle 1970's for a 17-year stint performing missionary work in Brazil and Bermuda. Horton became fluent in Portuguese and Spanish while intensely watching the features and body language of the people with whom he was working. "I've always liked making people smile and laugh so cartooning has been great for me. My work has been translated into over 100 languages and published on every continent around the world. It Wasn't until my family and I returned to the United States in 1993 that I became interested in sculpting. I always had a love for it. but I wasn't sure if I could make a living at it," Horton recounts. During a family ski trip to Aspen in 1993, Horton stopped in at a gallery to view recent sculpture on display. The bronze children shown inspired him to go home and try his own hand at creating some moving work.
"Children's eyes are the most critical," he observes. "Sculptors have struggled with various techniques over the centuries, often times with disturbing results. I am striving for an emotion, and depending on that emotion will vary the technique though trial and error. During the process of my first child sculpture, I redid the eyes 70 or 80 times before they were right." Horton begins each piece with a story so he can isolate what emotion he will be portraying. While his earlier figures focused on one child alone, he is currently exploring the combination of child with animal and enjoying the prospect of challenges ahead.
"Working with children and animals has pushed me toward studying anatomy," he confides. "This is my biggest challenge right now and a dream coming true.” Although Horton's career has been taking off at lightning speed. he makes sure to keep it and his personal life in a delicate state of balance and harmony. He is committed to spending a lot of time with his two teenage sons and to supervising the construction of his new home and studio. His wife Peggy, who continues to be a tremendous inspiration to Horton, provides critical feedback for his work.