"Darby Street 1"
created by Michael Garman available now at Sculpture Collector
"Darby Street 1"
Limited Edition 19
Bronze (mid-brown patina)
Size... 70"H x 48.5"W x 29"D
by Michael Garman
One owner since new in 1977
Very rare offering - highly unique
This one one of the few Darby Streets with its original effects (8-track tape), and it still works!
Sculptor Michael Garman
Born in Fort Worth in 1938 and raised in Arlington, Texas, Michael Garman was1940-Garman200x222 eight years old when he began creating little pipe-cleaner men. “I would twist pipe cleaners around pipe cleaners to make the muscles, arms and legs, and other features just right,” Michael Garman recalls “I used my mother’s sewing machine to design little cavalry uniforms and cowboy boots. I carved 940-Pipecleaner-Men200x222horses out of wood so that some of my guys were mounted. Then I’d gather up all my characters on my bed like a battle scene. I had guns and cannons and horses. Then the great battle began and my hero would get shot. I would arrange him just so, as he was dying. And I would cry and cry for him. I mean, I’d really be sobbing. And then I would scoop them all up and do it over again.”
According to Michael Garman, that was his start on 1959-Guatemala200x222the path to becoming America’s Storyteller Sculptor. Then, in 1959, Michael Garman hitchhiked into Mexico with $35 in his pocket and his Nikon camera for what he thought would be a two-week sojourn. When his money ran out, he would charm his way into a restaurant, offering to sweep the floor or something for a bit to eat or a drink. More often than not, the owner would give him a meal and a place to sleep. “No one I asked hired me, but everyone fed me.”
He hitchhiked his way further south through Central and South America. Two years later, he had traveled all the way to Santiago, Chile where he talked his way for free into the School of Fine Arts. It was here that he discovered his talent for sculpting. “I would sculpt my characters, street people, vendors and such,” Michael Garman relates, “and the school would fire them for free. Then I would go door to door and sell them for $5 or $10.”
When he returned to the United States, Garman Tailor-by-Michael-Garman200x222continued his vagabond lifestyle in the run-down neighborhoods of Dallas, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Colorado Springs. Initially, he continued to create one-of-a-kind sculptures. And, as his technique improved, his sculptures became more detailed. Inspired by the people he met on his hitchhiking journey, Michael’s early work depicted simple street moments – a tailor mending a garment, a woman on a bench, two ladies gossipingUmbrella-Scene-by-Michael-Garman200x222 under an umbrella.
As he had done in South America, as soon as he had a few sculptures finished, he would load them on his motor scooter and sell them door-to-door. Though he eventually made good money, Michael admitted to a growing emptiness. “I began to miss my own work,” he admits. “I discovered that I needed to be surrounded by my little characters, my pals. I still do to this day. I can’t live without my figures around me.
And so he decided to master the art of reproduction. “Writers do it. Musicians and filmmakers too. Could you imagine if John Steinbeck had only written one copy of The Grapes of Wrath?” Michael asks. “And only one person, one rich muckity-muck was able to read those words?! What a crime that would be. What a loss! As a sculptor, I can do the same thing that a writer or a musician does. I can publish my art. The trick is to make sure that every reproduced copy is just as detailed, just as rich and just as authentic as the original. Sure, it’s hard to master. But it’s supposed to be 1969-San-Francisco200x222hard. That’s what makes it fun.”
In the late 1960s, Michael Garman moved into the SoMa region of San Francisco where he found a studio above an old print shop. “Man, I landed in the center of wino town,” Garman recalled. “I loved it.” Inspired by the neighborhood, Michael’s sculptures began to become more realistic, gritty, and honest. Soon he began working at a local theatre company. It was here that he learned stage craft, illusion, as well as good business. “It was an important time in my life; that was my Harvard Business School,” Garman relates.
After years spent as a real-life vagabond throughout North and South America, Michael Garman eventually settled in Colorado Springs in 1971. It was here that he perfected1975-magic-town-2200x222 his gritty, Americana style. He also began a 40-year project to bring to life his vagabond experiences with a new art form – sculptural theater. He began work on Magic Town in 1975, and opened it 10 years and 1 million dollars later. “It’s a work-in-progress,” he admitted. And over the following three decades, Michael has added magical illusions, holographic effects, detailed alleyways and more. “Think of a 3,000 square-foot dollhouse,” Michael describes. “A gritty blend of Walt Disney and Norman Rockwell.”
In addition to building Magic Town, Michael Garman has dedicated the past fifty years to creating hundreds of sculptures that honor American heroes from all walks of life. Among his many sculpture series – Early American, Military, Firefighters, Linemen, Law Enforcement, Western, and many more – a theme emerges. Michael Garman’s art pays tribute to the extraordinary everyday heroes all around us: the firefighters, soldiers and police who run into danger, the doctors who treat our wounds, the lonely cowboy facing the long trail ahead, and the down-but-never-out street character with a twinkle in his eye.
All of his nearly 500 sculptures are reproduced by hand in Colorado Springs, USA with prices starting at under $40. Michael Garman’s goal has always been to tell an honest story, recreate it in an honest way, and sell it for an honest price. This is Michael Garman’s “Art for the People.”
Michael did not keep records of how many of these cityscapes were produced. At that early point in his career he simply did not envision that his work would become so sought-after. As such, we truly do not know the # of Darby I Cityscapes were sold. The first one that he made is still on exhibit here at The Michael Garman Museum & Gallery.
He initially made this piece for The Third Colorado Annual Art Show at the Denver Art Museum in 1975 (see attached photo). It was an amateur contest for up and coming artists. Darby Street (as it was then named) was inspired by Michael Garman’s experiences living in the wino districts of San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas. Michael lived and worked in these neighborhoods in the early part of his career, and came to find beauty in these decrepit, forgotten neighborhoods. Eventually he began sculpting the people he met in these neighborhoods. And Darby Street was his first attempt to create a home for his sculptures.
Michael won first place at The Third Colorado Annual, but when the Museum learned that he planned to reproduce this CityScape, they disqualified him. That experience changed the course of Michael Garman’s career. He simply could not understand why visual artists were required to make one-of-a-kind pieces to be considered legitimate artists. In his opinion this was in actuality anti-art. If art is meant to produce an authentic emotional experience, then it is the artist’s obligation to make their art as available as possible.
Other artists know this intuitively. A writer would never dream of producing only one copy of his manuscript and sell it to the highest bidder. Imagine if only one person was ever able to read The Grapes of Wrath or Moby Dick. In the same way, musicians would never make only 1 CD of their music and sell it to the richest bidder. Can you imagine if the Beatles only made one copy of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band so that only one person could experience that music? It is unthinkable, because writers and musicians know that it benefits their art to make it as available as possible.
So with that ethic firmly in mind, Michael Garman sought to create handmade reproductions of all of his work. If museums and galleries would not sponsor him, then he would just find a way to do it himself. So he brought Darby Street back home from the Denver Art Museum and proceeded to reproduce it by hand. Because of the handmade nature, each piece has some slight variations. But also, by keeping it in his studio, he began to improve on it. He added characters and detail work. Eventually he made a companion piece – Darby II, followed by Darby III, Spence’s Alley, City Life, Court and Darby, etc. Then he bought the building at 2418 W. Colorado Ave, in Colorado Springs (which is still the home of his Museum and Gallery today), and began working on connecting all these individual scenes into an entire City – Magic Town.
Today Magic Town is over 3,000 square feet. It includes dozens of individual CityScapes combined with over 500 sculpted characters, intricately detailed alleyways and vignettes, as well as holograms that heckle you when you walk by, and magical rooms that transform right before your eyes as sculptures appear to move from place to place. By using visual effects, he has created an interactable dollhouse that over 100,000 visitors tour each year.
All because Darby Street was disqualified from the Third Colorado Annual Art Show at the Denver Art Museum.
So that’s the history of CityScape.
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