The Artists Who Shape Us: Brad Morton

The Artists Who Shape Us: Brad Morton

Art, Spring 2019
The Artists Who Shape Us: Brad Morton
Words by: Rosalind Fournier Images by: Wes Frazier

The growth of Alys Beach has always been singularly grounded within the truths of beauty and community, enhanced by brilliant design, and brought to life by the individuality of people who spend their days here. There is unity here and there is diversity, as homeowners identify with art in their own lives, and for that, we are richer. We are more interesting.

There is unity here and there is diversity, as homeowners identify with art in their own lives, and for that, we are richer.

Homeowners Jim and Tara Bryant both have a lifelong appreciation of art and take great joy in its collection. And it seemed a sweet kismet when one day, while out on a run through their hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, that they came across an abstract figure, cast in bronze, holding a vessel, and filled with movement. The sculpture titled “The Water Bearer,” by Birmingham artist Brad Morton, spoke to the couple not simply aesthetically but also in spirit, as they saw this piece as an opportunity to add beauty to their own lives and to their community at Alys Beach.

“We stopped and said, ‘Wait—where did that come from? We love it,” Tara remembers. “We started thinking about it, and a lightbulb went off. We immediately thought this was a piece we should get and put at our house at Alys Beach.” Morton agreed to sell it, coming down himself to their home at Alys Beach to oversee its installation alongside a pedestrian path where passersby can enjoy its presence.

His work is technical and labor intensive, representing great proficiency with metalworking as well as inspired artistic vision.

Morton’s work can be seen in several prominent locations around the South, including major museums, universities, and corporate headquarters. His sculptures have also appeared in countless exhibitions over the years and won prestigious awards along the way. Yet to meet Morton in his studio, a space dense with heat and filled with creative energy, it’s clear he is simply an artist hard at work. His work is technical and labor intensive, representing great proficiency with metalworking as well as inspired artistic vision.

His process is multiform; he works through primitive handwork as he studies the depth and details of figure, he refines with heat and fire and strength, and with delicate precision he finishes each piece. He rarely if ever begins a new work by sketching on paper, but instead envisions forms tactically, working directly with clay, or sometimes wax, to work through an idea. “I think of it almost as a three-dimensional sketch,” he says. “I want to get the basic forms, and the relationships of the forms, until I see something happening that is intriguing to me. I’m thinking of the figure and working with the idea of the figure.” Once he has carefully established this form and refines its intricate details, he scales it up accordingly and casts the piece in bronze. “The Water Bearer” is a limited-edition piece, one of four. Its story is open to interpretation, and the Bryants enjoy contemplating its particular voice here at Alys Beach. “I see it as the image of someone giving water, which would be the gift of life,” Jim says. “And there has always been the concept at Alys Beach of giving to the community with regard to the pedestrian path, something for everyone to enjoy. So just as “The Water Bearer” can be seen as offering the gift of water, we can offer it as a visual gift to people walking by as well.”

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