GROSSE ILE -- When Grosse Ile native Janice Trimpe sits down
with a fresh batch of clay, she prefers to think big -- as in life-size
Trimpe, who now lives and works in Grosse Pointe Park, has crafted
life-size bronze statues and portrait busts to accent historic and
government buildings as well as downtown pedestrian malls in Roseville,
Mount Clemens, Sterling Heights and Flint. Clinton Township recently
commissioned Trimpe to create "Sisters," a bronze piece portraying two
girls sharing a book that was sent to the township's sister city,
"I love to work big," said Trimpe, 60, whose first commissioned
public art piece was a statue of former Dearborn mayor Orville Hubbard
that she created for installation at City Hall in the late 1980s.
Trimpe began pursuing art as a child in Grosse Ile, drawing and
taking pottery classes out of the basement of a shop on Macomb Street
and studying with local artist and writer Florence Kaufmann.
She practiced oil painting in the early 1970s before beginning her
studies at the College for Creative Studies in 1975. Her career as an
artist began when she started sculpting busts out of a Detroit
storefront after leaving CCS.
"I raised my children on them," Trimpe said of the portrait busts.
She estimates that she's created more than 200, including the likeness
of G. Mennen Williams, a former Michigan governor, dancer Mikhail
Baryshnikov and Henry Ford II.
She is now working on a life-size bronze angel for Assumption Grotto
Catholic Church on Gratiot in Detroit.
Much of the time when cities approach her, the St. Mary's Academy
student said they have an idea of what they'd like in a piece of public
art, but leave the fine-tuning and creativity to her.
"You drill them on what they want ... ask a lot of questions," said
Trimpe, whose sculpture in downtown Mount Clemens, "Apple of My Eye,"
depicting an old man sharing a game of checkers with a young girl, has
become one of her most recognizable pieces.
" 'Apple of My Eye,' has become a signature for Mount Clemens," said
Jo-Anne Wilkie, executive director of the Art Center in Mount Clemens.
"It tugs at the heart strings ... just a heartwarming piece."
The 1,000-pound bronze piece measures about five feet in height and
length and is more than three feet wide.
Although gratifying, Trimpe said the entire process of creating the
statues -- from small-scale model to finished outdoor installation -- is
lengthy, taking about a year to complete.
"It takes me four to six months, and the foundry four to six months,"
After admitting she became burned out on art, she took a 15-year
hiatus from bust-making and has recently returned to creating the pieces
for clients who want their children or selves captured in clay, bronze
or terra cotta.
The busts sell for $1,500 to $10,000, depending on the medium, and
take two to three months to complete -- a fraction of the time it takes
to work on commissioned public pieces.
In the meantime, she is also working on a series of small nudes to be
displayed and sold in gallery shows after she "retires" from bust-making
and public art.
"I think I've got 20 years (of work) left in me before that," she
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