Grosse Ile native crafts art for cities - 01/12/05
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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

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Ankur Dholakia / The Detroit News;Ankur Dholakia/The Detroit News

Janice Trimpe mends the cracks on an angel sculpture at her Grosse Pointe Park studio. The life-size bronze angel will be displayed at Assumption Grotto Catholic Church on Gratiot in Detroit.

Grosse Ile native crafts art for cities

Artist creates life-size sculptures to dress up buildings in Metro area

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Sculptor Janice Trimpe can be reached at her studio, 15115 Charlevoix, Grosse Pointe Park, MI 48230, through her Web site: http://www.trimpesculpture.com/ or by phone at (313) 313-824-9228.

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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 public art.

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, Yasu-cho, Japan.

"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," she said.

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 said.

You can reach Lisa Martino at (313) 222-2717 or mailto:lmartino@detnews.com



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