Sculptor Bruce Carty was born in Sacramento, California on November 10, 1949 where he attended Elk Grove schools. His family then moved to Ohio in 1966. Bruce left the home for a short time with a friend, but soon returned to Ohio to move back to California when he heard his brother Gary was returning.
Bruce received his GED from Luther Burbank High School. Bruce admits he wasn’t a good student when he was younger and just wasn’t interested in school. But at the age of 18, Bruce enrolled at American River College and did very well in spite of his younger years. He enrolled in classes in English, Math, Metallurgy, Blueprint Reading, and Layout. He also took Shop which consisted of four types of welding. Bruce’s brother Jim welded and taught welding in the Navy.
Bruce got interesting in sculpting when he happened to see a news segment on Dr. Kenneth Fox, a dentist who lived in Auburn, California who sculpted larger-than-life statues on the side. He thought to himself, “I can do that.” He drove to Auburn to Dr. Fox’s dental office, where he was lucky enough to catch Dr. Fox sculpting and asked if he needed help, to which Dr. Fox replied “Sure.” Bruce spent four months learning Dr. Fox’s method of sculpting and that’s when he decided that’s sculpting was what he wanted to do.
Bruce honed his work over the years. Basically, he starts by welding a metal skeleton and wrapping it in hardware cloth (1/2” mesh), then uses mortar, or as Bruce refers to it as cultured stone, to sculpt the form and details.
At the age of about 25 years, he sculpted his first statue which was one of “George Washington” and his second one was of a “Minuteman.” Both were about 6-feet tall. At around 30 years of age, Larry Alexander, for whom he worked for at the time, commissioned Bruce to do a “Blacksmith” statue.
Lawrence “Larry” Lee Alexander was a northern California native born in Gilroy, California who opened his metal fabrication business, Alexander Iron Works in Sacramento in 1976 then transitioned into opening United Steel Service (Lawrence Steel) in 1986.
Larry’s business had many fabrication jobs over the years which a few of the more memorable ones was Russell Ranch Elementary, Vista Del Lago High School in Folsom, The Grange Restaurant in the Citizens Hotel downtown Sacramento and his last big job was the SMUD East complex on Bradshaw Road.
Larry knew of Bruce’s abilities and side work and around 1986 he commissioned Bruce to do a blacksmith sculpture to represent his company. It was almost 11 feet tall with a 4’ x 4’ pedestal base. When Larry retired and sold his business on Reese Road in 2015, (Note: Presently it is the Golden State Fire Apparatus Company and is located across from the back entrance to Frasinetti’s Winery) Larry had the sculpture loaded on to a flatbed truck and relocated to his Streng home residence on Williamson Drive in Elk Grove.
His daughter Michelle tells this story, “I was staying with him at the time, and I was unaware that he had moved the statue to the backyard. He took Great pleasure in scaring me one morning knowing my routine of opening up my blinds to the back yard every morning. Yes, I played right into his plans of me opening the blinds and screamed which he was standing outside my bedroom door waiting…… I screamed then I heard him laughing out loud – Mission accomplished dad!”
Larry passed in October 2019 and the statue remained in the backyard. The house was sold, and the Alexander family felt it was time to find a new home for the statue.
In early 2021 the Elk Grove Historical Society was approached and asked if they had an interest in a blacksmith statue. The historical society had built and completed a blacksmith shop barn in 2017 and decided it would be a perfect adjunct to really draw attention to the area. So, this started things in motion to relocate the statue to Heritage Park where the blacksmith shop and museums are all located. A cement pad has been poured and the statue was transported there in April 5, 2022 by a group of volunteers.
Throughout his sculpting career Bruce also became a general contractor, did land development, and built homes. Bruce quit working for Larry Alexander after about 10 years and became a silent partner for his son Jason’s tree trimming business. A couple of years later in 1997 he returned to sculpting full time.
During his sculpting years Bruce ended up going to the Elk Grove Library to ask how he could obtain a directory of all the schools in the USA, so that he could send flyers to the high schools (with 1800 students or more), when he wasn’t sculpting, in hopes of getting commissions for school mascots. Well, that paid off for Bruce and he started receiving commissions, more than he anticipated and sometimes had to delay some to the following year.
Bruce has sculpted statues, somewhere in the neighborhood of a 100, more or less, for schools, private parties, and businesses. The range consisted of Lions, Bears, Vikings, Indians and Buffaloes, just to give you an idea of the scope of his abilities. His starting fee for a sculpture was $1000 a foot. The base and delivery were a separate charge depending on the size and distance. He amusingly adds that sometimes the delivery depended on the location as to whether he would transport the piece himself or if someone else would, because if it was a neat location, he would take the family and make a vacation of it.
You might be surprised to know that two of Bruce’s early works, constructed in 1977-78 and moved in July 1979, when he was only 26-years old, are the huge Buffalo and Indian on display in the yard of which was once Ray Steele Realty Offices on Grantline Road in Sheldon, California. He constructed the Buffalo on-site, but the Indian was built at his mother’s-in-law house and thus he had to have it moved to Steele Realty. Ray Steele raised Buffalo and commissioned Bruce for that statue and the 20-foot Indian had already been sculped when Ray Steele bought it as a landmark for his Realty Business.
He started sculpting in 1975 but had to retire from sculpting in 2012 when his Parkinson’s Disease made it too difficult to continue. It was thirty-seven very productive and creative years.
Bruce is also an author and has published his own book called, “He Is But The Wind”, written in 2016. It is a fiction creation about a lad’s struggle to find his destiny. This young student wants to be a writer, but in college, he is told he must experience life first before he can understand how to write about it, so he sets out on a road true on the backroads of America to do just that.
Bruce isn’t sure what to make of all the excitement about his Blacksmith statue, or any statue for that matter. It’s just what he did. He appreciates the attention, but it was the creativity and feeling of accomplishment that drove him. He is the last of six siblings and lives a very relaxed and pleasant life with his lovely wife, Paulina, in Sloughhouse, California, in the house he built himself in 1991. They enjoy their three sons and their families immensely. He is very content with his life.
We are having a plaque designed and a dedication will be held later this year. We are in hopes Bruce & Paulina can attend the event as well as Larry Alexander’s family. Thank you both for the wonderful gift to the community.
(Note: Long time historical society member, seventy-nine-year-old Jim Entrican says he is amazed at the “uncanny resemblance” between him and the statue when he was a young lad. The historical society reserves comment on the observation and will let you decide.)