Sunday, April 29, 2012

In the Land of 9 Foot Tall Women

Can I just say, Tom Corbin is charming. Tom Corbin is attractive in that rugged way of men who work with their hands everyday, a casual, comfortable physicality. And most of all Tom Corbin is talented. But why am I talking about some guy named Tom Corbin? Well, Tom Corbin is the Kansas City based bronze sculptor and painter that Joe and I had the pleasure of meeting last weekend. What are we doing hobnobbing with bronze sculptors on some random Saturday afternoon? See that's the best part, we were just out supporting one of our favorite nonprofits, and not having to go to some boring dinner to do it.

Above standard size

Corbin Bronzes

Actually one of the perks of my job, working with twenty to thirty different nonprofits in Kansas City, is the wide range of events and fundraisers that our staff gets invited to. It's a delightful treat, sometimes we go, sometimes we don't, and then sometimes we attend and then work these events ourselves and get to help our clients in a really hands on kind of way, which is great. And this event is actually both.

One of my favorite clients, and one of my favorite annual events just happens to be Gift of Life's Go See Do KC event. Gift of Life's mission is to build awareness around the critical need for organ and tissue donation and provide assistance to transplant patients, their families and living donors. They do an excellent job at this. (I've signed my organ donor card/driver's license, have you? Come on, get signing! What are you going to do with those parts anyway?)

Girl in the circle

Gift of Life throws one of the most unusual and fun events that I've ever had the pleasure of working or attending around these parts. Galas and dinners and silent auctions are nice and all, but they seem to blur together in a haze of open bars, tepid wine and dry chicken breast. Gift of Life takes fundraising events somewhere else entirely. All over the city, in fact. They have the party and the food and the auction at the end of the day, but before that, you get to choose a tour of some fabulous place or business or site in Kansas City. Tours of Boulevard Brewery, behind the scenes curator directed tours of art museums, private concerts, wine tastings, Christopher Elbow artisanal chocolate tours, even tours of the brand new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.


Gift of Life's Go See Do KC event is just that, a private insider's guide to some of the hidden and not so hidden gems of Kansas City. It's affordable, it's fun and it's your ticket to see inside the world of art, food, wine, and other delights. I've volunteered to work at the big party after the tours for the last five years. I've toured private homes with world class art collections. I've taken cooking classes. I've gotten all the secret dish on local museums, and this year, Joe and I had the pleasure of touring the Corbin Bronze Studio, Tom Corbin's gallery and studio space, located inside a two story old fire station in Kansas City, Kansas. And it was one of the best tours of the last five years.


Mr. Corbin gave all of us the run of the place for an hour. The first half hour we wandered around his small outdoor sculpture garden, looking at bald bronze men in inter-tubes and swim trucks, five foot tall bronze poodles and other beautiful pieces scattered around the grounds, and we wandered around the second story of this historic old building, a former firehouse, complete with working firemen's pole, you know for those quick dramatic exits.

Wax molds

Mr. Corbin's work is scattered through room after white painted room. Paintings and bronze sculptures share the space. Lots of beautiful works portraying his wife and daughter, the poodles, and the lanky, curvaceous female figures that he has become known for. After taking in all of the work, Mr. Corbin gave us a short presentation and talked about how he got into bronze art in the first place. He spoke about his first years in sculpting, starting his business, the first big successes he had with designing and selling high end accessories like tables and other furniture pieces. His clientele includes such luminaries as Nicole Kidman and Jack Nicholson. But even we could afford one of his pieces. (ok, one of his mini sculptures, ok, maybe one of his books, but still, that's real art right there.)

Work in progress

Beyond his prodigious talent, he just seemed like a very down-to-earth and modest person. We stood in his studio and had the chance to see the lost wax bronze casting process in it's early stages. He was working on a commission of this large, nearly 9 foot tall female sculpture. Her clay covered frame dominated the room. She looked like she could have been breathing, standing right there, looming over us with her strong, but somehow delicate stature.  Mr. Corbin let us take photos, he walked us through the process, and showed us the behind the scenes little details, like the six crockpots, lined up and filled with clay, the Dixie cups he cuts down to use to split the sculptures in two before they are sent off to be cast in bronze, or the wall of small portraits that he painted over several years.
Such a fascinating peek inside the world of an artist and not something you get to see everyday. Selfishly it was an just excellent afternoon, with the side benefit that it actually helped to support an important cause at the same time. I appreciate so much that Mr. Corbin shared his time and his space, and allowed us to linger, ask questions, invade his privacy, and admire his work. I might have to start saving up for my own mini Corbin sculpture.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Hey...I meant to say something when I saw you mention it on fb last weekend. My friend, Julia, works there and is the one in the picture that says "She is not what you think." We've been to the fire station many times as you can imagine and love it there! I do have my own little one that Julia gave me, but I'd love to have a bigger one some day.