There's no such thing as "don't touch" when it comes to appreciating "Spirit of Discovery," the 14-foot-tall outdoor bronze sculpture at the Sioux City Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center.
In fact, artist Pat Kennedy, creator of the imposing piece, likes nothing better than to see people getting close, touching, even climbing up the base of his image of Lewis & Clark and Lewis's trusty Newfoundland dog, Seaman. "I wanted there to be a sense of casualness about this work even though I put Lewis & Clark in full uniform. I wanted the friendship and unity of these two men to show through," said Kennedy.
The sculpture shows the two captains in a relaxed moment, looking out over the Missouri River. Lewis is resting his right hand on Clark's shoulder as a gesture of camaraderie. An attentive Seaman sits between his master and Clark.
The artist offers an uncomplicated explanation of how he arrived at this concept. "I read the journals and listened to people talk about Lewis and Clark. I heard a lot about friendship and I guess that's how I came to this. The basic design came real easily."
More measured was working out the captains' finely detailed uniforms, which comprise buttons, belts, tassels, piping and other embellishments. For guidance on official clothing and how the explorers wore it, the artist went to a variety of sources, including the Smithsonian Institute.
"I'd never seen a sculpture of Lewis & Clark in uniform and that's why I wanted to do it this way. Each time they encountered Indians they put on uniforms. There weren't all the military dress codes about uniforms that they have today and that's why there's a sense of casualness," said the artist.
Kennedy put Lewis in full uniform because Lewis was considered the leader even though both men were captains. Le wis wears a chapeau with a showy plume, a detail that reflects a strong French influence. For interpretive center visitors, the hat serves as an easy way to distinguish Lewis from Clark.
Some visitors spend time soaking in every detail of the sculpture. Others find it most impressive when viewed from afar. Either perspective speaks of a long, painstaking creative process that began with an idea then moved from a miniature work crafted in clay to a full-sized mold cast in bronze.
Kennedy spent about six months sculpting the piece, which sits on a four-foot-tall limestone base. It took another six months to make the mold and complete the bronzing process. "It's made up of many pieces welded together. The process was like putting a jigsaw back together." It is the largest work Kennedy has ever created.
Spirit of Discovery Sculpture