Rip selected by Naval Order of U.S. for National Monument

Date: November 14, 2012
Author: Sara Hottman, The Oregonian

Troutdale Artist Rip Caswell has been commissioned by the Naval Order of the United States to create an 8-foot-tall bronze sculpture of U.S. Navy five-star Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz for the Battleship Missouri National Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Now Caswell is immersing himself in Admiral Chester Nimitz, historically recognized as the legendary commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in World War II.”I’m learning as much as I can about the admiral,” Caswell said. “I’ve been reading books about him, watching documentaries, researching who he was — his spirit, his accomplishments.”

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Caswell was selected after an 18-month-long application process that included reference and background checks, as well as a personal visit from the commander general and director of the Naval Order of the United States, said Kathy Toynbee, general manager of Rip Caswell Sculptures, Inc.

The Naval Order of the United States is a fraternal order formed in 1890 to preserve maritime artifacts and history.

Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Douglas Moore, commander general of the order, and retired U.S. Navy Captain Attilio Serfini Jr., director of the order, “wanted to capture Admiral Nimitz and his personality and spirit in his face and eyes,” Toynbee said. “By looking at Rip’s work, they were able to ascertain that he was capable.”

At the beginning of the month the Naval Order chose Caswell from a short list of sculptors across the nation.”Caswell’s ability, particularly in the eyes and in the facial features of his subjects, to capture the lifelike, true spirit of an individual, is one of the unique qualities that stood out and caught our attention in our national search and selection of a sculptor,” Moore said in a press release.

The Nimitz sculpture will be Caswell’s highest profile, located at a museum that has half a million visitors each year. His other sculptures, such as a 10-foot bronze statue of former Oregon governor Tom McCall in Salem’s Riverfront Park, are significant to Oregonians, Caswell said, but the admiral is a historically important national figure.

Caswell is looking to the diaries his grandfather kept while he served in the Navy during World War II for personal insight into the era. He’ll also travel to Fredericksburg, Texas, where Nimitz was born in 1885 and home of the Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site in the National Museum of the Pacific War. Once the clay sculpture is complete, Caswell will cast it in bronze at his foundry, Firebird Bronze in Boring, Ore., which opened in September.”I’m excited to have that control over it, to oversee the project from start to finish,” Caswell said. The sculpture will be unveiled at the Battleship Missouri Memorial on Aug. 14, 2013, to mark the anniversary of the allied victory in the Pacific in 1945.
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