Thursday, 13 August 2009

George Barone: Thinking Big on the Prairie

Barone working on Sara the Camel, Glenboro (source)

While researching Transcona's Hi Neighbour Sam I came across the name of artist Giorgio (George) Barone. I hadn't heard of him before but it turns out that I have seen a lot of his work !

Born and raised in Italy, Barone came to Manitoba in 1951 and worked as a set designer for the CBC. A talented sculptor in marble, stone and wood, he is probably most famous for his  fibreglass town mascots that dot the Manitoba landscape.

St. Francois Xavier

In 1966 Barone created what he called a 'revolutionary' method of large-scale sculpting. He created the figures by pouring 'vibrofoam' (a synthetic, air filled foam) into a mold. Once hardened, it was covered in multiple layers of fibreglass cloth then topped off with coats of resin. A decade later, while working on McCreary's Alpine Charlie, he incorporated a layer of steel mesh to the skin and marble dust to the foam.

Barone created virtually indestructible figures at a fraction of the weight and cost of a bronze casting. He foresaw a day when even tombstones would be made using it as they could last longer than concrete or marble, (July 8, 1966 Winnipeg Free Press.)

Thompson, Manitoba

Barone Artistics Limited's studio started out at 701 Broadway. In 1968 he moved to a vacant schoolhouse on Pembina Highway and a decade later worked from his home at 476 St. Mary's Road and rented space when he needed it.

Boissevain, Manitoba
Boissevain, Manitoba

In 1979 Barone and his family moved to Kelowna B.C. and opened Happy Valley Resort. There, Barone was able to realize a long-time pet project: a large playground area filled with giant figures. In 2005 the site was redeveloped and his works, including a large Ogopogo, were scattered.

Barone's final work was a 
Winnie-the-Pooh statue for White River, Ontario which he completed while ill with cancer. He died on December 7, 1992.

Source: August 31, 1978, Winnipeg Free Press

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