Hatteberg's People - Fred Whitman

By: Larry Hatteberg Email
By: Larry Hatteberg Email

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

On Hatteberg's People, there is pleasure in finding someone who totally enjoys his work. That someone is Fred Whitman, a California sculptor who for the past couple of years, has made his home in Kansas for a few Summer months. Fred is a figurative stone artist. And on the prairie what once was known for holding barbed wire, is now an art gallery cut in limestone.

You can see their faces standing tall in limestone embedded in the Kansas prairie.

"For me that is the reason I came in the first place. To leave something that would hopefully last as long as the posts have lasted."

Fred Whitman sees these rolling hills along the highway south of Lucas as one of the repositories of his art. The historic post rocks standing as prairie sentries.

"This is the Post Rock scenic highway so folks come up and down this highway just to see these posts and if they get turned on to these carvings, then that's enough, that's my pay."

Whitman is a California artist who works primarily in Kansas Limestone. His current project...former Kansas Senator Bob Dole.

"And he's in there. When I get involved in these projects, it's all that's on my mind."

"I did do a fair amount of research on Bob Dole and everything I read I liked."

For the past eight years, Fred has used the Kansas Limestone from Post Rock country to create his art. With these sculptures, you can tell he has no shortage of talent.

"Since I do enjoy doing this so much, I don't know how I could create a better life for myself."

"And then each of these stones is different when they come to me, these raw fence posts that are out here in the field, they each have their own character to them."

"Well, I'm definitely getting there but we have along way to go. Right now on this rock, the tip of the nose is probably the only thing that is in the right spot."

With the Bob Dole art in its early stages when this story was shot....it's interesting to know if those faces by the highway K232 are of anyone in particular...turns out they are.

This is Janea, she is the daughter of Richard and Kay Mettlen of Lucas......

and this is Chelsea Koehn. Her father is a local rancher and the one who arranged for Fred's current project, the Bob Dole statue which will be placed at the Russell County Courthouse.

"So it's not going to be just a portrait of a man, it's going to be art."

As he chips, cuts and hammers away, Whitman says it is the people of Kansas who have changed his life, and keep him coming back.

"The people that I met really sold me. For me it is a magical experience."

The Dole Sculpture isn't yet finished...he has several days of work left...but he sent this picture today.

An artist carving the statesman, and the Kansas people become the 'rock' that binds these men together.

"That's another great thing, as long as I can still see Bob Dole inside here, them I'm happy. I'm happy because I know it's going to turn out correct."

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