From Vietnam to Public Art: A Conversation with Neil Logan

Nov 10, 2017

When you see a bronze statue of a fallen solider somewhere in northern Arizona, chances are Neil Logan was the artist. He works from photographs and sketches to design large-as-life memorials for war veterans, as well as police officers, firefighters, even K9 dogs. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny spoke with Logan at his Sedona foundry. For this Veteran’s Day he shares his journey from Vietnam to public art. 

Neil Logan
Credit Melissa Sevigny

Tell me a bit about yourself. How did you get into doing sculptures?

Neil Logan: When I was a little kid I always liked to draw and play, just like any other little kid. As soon as I could I got my hands on some clay. When I was oversees in Vietnam, in between launches on the carrier and stuff, I would draw pictures of horses and anything back home and send them out. So when I got out of the Navy I had the GI Bill and I came right back to Flagstaff and used the GI Bill to go to NAU. I used my whole four years in art. And so that led me to here. And I’ve been doing sculpture of some form, whether it was jewelry or drawing or whatever, anything I could in the arts to pay the bills. It’s what I’ve done for 42 years now. I really like to do big pieces that honor other people. Veterans, soldiers, firefighters, police officers, whatever.

Bronze pouring in Sedona
Credit Melissa Sevigny

What draws you to doing sculptures of that?

Neil Logan: Well, I spent my time in the military, I spent four years in the military, I was on an aircraft carrier, and I did two tours in Vietnam. I hated the military when I was there, because I didn’t want to be there, it was when there was a draft and we’re right in the middle of Vietnam, but as you get older and you start appreciating what the military did for you as far as working with other people and working as a team, and you miss the guys, you make good friends in the military. You have no choice, they’re stuck with you all that time, especially on the ship. Pretty soon you start appreciating what those guys do. They’re out there putting their butts on the line.

We were just out there watching a bronze pouring, can you describe that process to me?

Credit Melissa Sevigny

Neil Logan: It’s complicated. It goes through three positives. It’s the lost wax process, so you start with a positive clay, and you go to a positive wax, and then you go to the positive bronze. In between are two molds. One of them is a silicon mold, in which you pour the wax, and the second mold is a ceramic mold. That ceramic mold can take the weight and the heat of the bronze. And then the shell is broken off, the bronze is all cleaned up and spiffed up and all the pieces of the bronze are welded together, and then a chemical patina is put on it. If you just took a bronze out in Arizona and set it out in the air, just a raw bronze, it would probably turn black. Depending on what’s in the air, you might get that pretty green color like a penny that’s left out, the turquoise color. Every bronze that’s outside in AZ eventually is going to do its own thing.

Can you tell people where they might find some of your sculptures in this area?  

Neil Logan: One of the oldest ones I’ve done in Arizona, on the Whisky Row side of the courthouse in Prescott, there’s a piece there called “Medivac”, and it’s a Vietnam era—it’s an all-veterans memorial but it’s Vietnam era. And then there’s also one in Williams, a Veteran’s memorial in Williams. I did the police memorial in front of the police station in Flagstaff.

Do you have a favorite piece?  

Neil Logan: Gosh, I can’t even remember everything I’ve done. Nope, that one’s yet to come, I think.