She lives in a world of wonder; a place where birds of prey perch unbidden on her bare arm and horses at liberty freely seek her companionship. A master falconer, a horsewoman, and a person totally at peace with the animal world, Tammy Bality brings her awareness and appreciation for furry and feathered friends into her exceptional art, preserving for all time the grace of the creatures she sculpts.
“With my sculptures,” said Bality, “I try to portray what I experience when I’m around animals. They bring so much joy to my life.” At home in Loveland, Colorado, Bality, a fifth generation native, spends between
30-40 hours a week sculpting while balancing a job, running a
home, and caring for all her own menagerie. These include a
Harris hawk, a
Quarterhorse, a Tennessee walker, Tonto, an aging
pony, and a rescued Italian greyhound named Bonnie. This past
summer, she fostered a rescued kestrel, a small raptor, who,
after being let back into the wild, decide to come “home” and is
a frequent visitor. In addition to all that responsibility,
Bality is also a competition horsewoman, showing in ranch horse
versatility, a Western sport that requires perfect trust and
coordination between horse and rider.
The artist competes because she loves it and like all her riding
experiences, learns from it. While she rides she’s studying the
horse and all his movements. It’s that learned intimacy with
form and movement that translates into her memorable bronzes of
horses at rest or at play. From salon size to life size, her
accuracy is astonishing. Bality is more than adept at building
the first maquette in clay, prior to casting. These days, she’s
also tackling the challenging assemblage of the cast pieces into
the final sculpture as well as the seam welding and finishing
in. She and her husband Arpi, who knows a lot about welding, are
both learning the technical art of the foundry so that the final
piece will be exactly the way she envisioned it.
At present her work is cast by two well
known foundries in Colorado, Madd Casting in Berthoud, and Art
Casting in Loveland, located in one of the great centers of
in the West. Her finishes or patinas, are
varied. Some reflect the actual coloring of the animal. Others
are achieved with chemicals that color the bronze in unusual
ways. In the beautiful circular sculpture, “Spring Foal Crop,”
the patina reflects the growth of spring, plus colors from the
earth. Bality works with a professional patineur who helps her
achieve the precise color and finish she wants.
Bronze isn’t the
only medium in which she’s adept. Bality may be one of the few
artists in the country to create sculpture in cast glass, a
technical feat executed by a casting master in Oregon. “I took
some workshops in glass art,” explained the artist, “but the
casting process is very complex, especially the cooling process.
I know what my limitations are. Yet, it’s important to me
that I try every medium in its entirety myself. I know now I’d
rather sculpt than produce.”
At first glance, the fanciful
horses and birds made of glass (lead crystal to be exact) seem
to glow from within, adding the fiery element of light to their
elegant forms. These pieces, birds and horses, are in a
category all their own, comparable in some ways with the French
glass creations by the legendary French producer Lalique. Heavy,
solid and durable, they are infused with spirit, glowing vessels
for the power of light.
Tammy Bality is hard not to notice.
She is striking and tall, a woman of grace and strength. Her
connection to nature might be due in part to the fact that she
was raised on a farm in northern Colorado. “I was an only
child,” said Tammy. “My father passed away when I was two and
since my mother worked full time, I was raised by my grandmother
who encouraged me to spend all the time I wanted with the
animals on the farm—dogs, cats, cattle, and horses.”
One might say she was weaned on their trust. She’s carried that
feeling into her adult life and, knowing she wanted to be an
her youth, made it her life’s goal to tell the animal’s stories
to others. Not
just what they are, but how they relate to each other.
Although the artist’s equine subjects in either bronze or clay (fired at
home in her own kiln and then raku fired with combustible materials) she
is gifted in other subject matter as well. One of Bality’s most memorable
stands more than life-size, 8’ high and 4’ wide. Titled “Spirit of Women”,
it’s a bronze sculpture of a woman turning into a bird, a metaphorical
statement that speaks about transcendence, about women wanting
to soar. From every angle the piece speaks boldly, a daring and poetic
solution to a profound idea.
Most recently Bality collaborated with another outstanding sculptress
in Dallas, Texas, Angela Mia de la Vega, whose strength is figures. Together
they envisioned a piece, “Race of the Wild,” a boy running with a wolf,
where each would be the spirit of the other. The results were brought
together only after separate castings, and the
connection is spectacular.
A second edition in the same vein is in the works--a young girl and fox,
again with both artists developing the idea verbally and starting to work
from there. The vision is of the pair stepping over a branch and looking
backward, a pivotal moment in their spiritual and physical growth.
Select galleries in the United States carry Bality’s work. They include
Vail Fine Art Gallery in Vail, CO, Chisholm Gallery in Millbrook, NY, Xanadu
Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ, SR Brennen in Santa Fe, NM, Betsy Swartz Fine
Art in Bozeman MT, Beartooth Gallery, Red Lodge, MT, and Spirits in the
Wind in Golden, Colorado. Her impressive list of awards and invitations
to juried shows across the country starting in 2001 is enviable and she
continues to receive critical acclaim on her growing body of work.
Ideas come to Bality faster then she can produce them. “Being an
artist has its advantages,” she said, “especially the joy of having people
actually buy your work because they love it. But then there’s the problem
of not being able to sleep at two in the morning because you’re creating
in your head.”
Bality works at home and has transformed their residence into a
multi-layered studio. “Because I work in so many mediums, I work all
over the house. I do the clay work in the basement or outside, because
it’s the messiest. For life size figures, those are done in our shop next to
In case anyone is curious, her company name, Spotted Pony Studio, is
an homage to her first horse, an Appaloosa, whom she bought as a three year
old stallion when she barely knew how to ride. Together they learned
what was expected from the other and she enjoyed a long and fruitful
relationship with a memorable horse.
What could be a more fitting tribute than to dedicate one’s art to the
most important horse in your life? Just ask Tammy Bality –the answer is