"Faith and Works"
"Faith and Works"

Comments on Sculptures

                                BY OTTO AND HIS WIFE, HILDA TJADEN

GENESIS (Welded & Metal)

I believe this was the first of Otto’s sculptures using this method and medium.  He shaped pieces of metal, welded them together, then dripped metal on the surface to finish them.  I don’t know if he named this Genesis because it seemed like a new beginning in his work or if it pictured to him God’s creativeness in making our world.  There is also the “reaching” theme in this piece which was expressed in so many of his sculptures.


SKOAL (Welded & Metal)

Both the rocky base and the rough heavy metal used in this piece speak to us of our Viking forefathers; heavy, sturdy ships with their figureheads, anchors and strong iron chains and rings for docking safely.  They were a brave, daring people.



The simplicity of this sculpture has an appeal to any mother who has sent her child off to his or her first day of school.  There is just a mother, any mother, and her child caught in that forever moment when the child goes out on his own.

There is a little history of this piece.  One morning Otto and I were cleaning up the workshop, used as a sign shop and a sculpture workshop also.  I was sweeping the floor and as I emptied the dust pan into the wastebasket I noticed the separate carved pieces of this sculpture lying with the trash.  Curious, I asked what it was.  Otto said, “Oh that was just an idea I had but it didn’t work out.”  I pulled the pieces out and tried to put them together just guessing at how they should go.  Otto saw I was puzzled so he laid the pieces out illustrating his idea of a mother bidding goodbye to her little child on his first day of school.  Of course it made me remember how any mother feels when that day comes.  I asked him to finish it, maybe just for me, which he did.  But, when it was done I urged him to take it down to the gallery so others could see it.  Of course it sold almost immediately, but I still have the picture.


SEATED FIGURE (Welded & Metal)

This is another very simple piece, representing a seated woman.  It is made of heavy wire coated with dripped metal.  I like the flowing lines and the reaching up.

FAITH AND WORKS (Welded & Metal)

The background of this piece is wood construction.  There are parts of it that could have biblical references like the Ten Commandments, the 12 apostles, maybe buildings or “works” made by man.  The metal forms speak of the spirit and faith.  Otto said he thought more of the beauty of the wood construction and metal forms than he did of any special meaning when he made it.  His description was - The metal can be a “burning bush” or a tree or candlesticks to represent  faith.  The blocks, beams etc. represent works.  The door is from the biblical - Christ said . . . “I am the door.”  Otto also wrote in his history for the museum, “I made a piece for the Hillcrest Academy and called it “Faith and Works.”  The background was made to resemble the frame work of a temple or building.  It was oak and carved to add to the design.  In from of this was a sort of candlestick design of welded metal, with the tips of the candles made like curling flames.  The vertical lines of welded bronze with the tips of flame I meant to illustrate “faith” and the framework of oak behind represented “works.”  My thought was that the students might learn from this how important it is to have a burning faith and back it up with hard, solid work.”


TRIO (Welded & Metal)

This is a happy piece of three birds singing their hearts out in harmony.  God’s creatures praising Him.


ANTONYMS (Welded & Metal)

Otto wrote, “My largest piece is the one I made for Mr. Rufer for the Law firm when they remodeled and furnished their office in the old Sons of Norway Hall above the former First National Bank.  I called this piece Antonyms (words that have opposite meanings such as good/evil, strong/weak etc.)  This is a piece made of welded metal and I think it is about 3 x 6 ft.  The two parts are a strong line of bronze going in a purposeful direction, surrounded by burned black steel in the chaos that result from lack of purpose and direction.  It was not my intention to moralize to the lawyers but I thought it illustrated the power of words to either do good or their antonym, evil.”


STAGES (Welded & Metal)

He used this theme in several pieces with different mediums expressing growth.



This shows Otto’s sense of humor, almost in cartoon form; the stark shape of the skeleton with the sense of fun expressed by adding the glasses.  (Did you ever see a ghost wear glasses?)


THE CROSS    (Welded & Metal)

This again, is metal construction with dripped metal finish.  There could be several interpretations of this, one being men and God joined by the cross as one.


DIAPASON (Welded & Metal)

The word means the entire range of a voice or instrument.  This seems to be expressed by a choir in an amphitheater with the sound rising into open space.


HANDS or CHAINED (Welded & Metal)

A farmer came into the shop one day with a roll of old barbed wire fencing.  He sort of joked that maybe Otto could make something out of it.  Whether it was a challenge or if it sparked an idea I don’t know, but it made an interesting piece.  There is a theme of reaching for freedom though chained or bound.


GOOD AND EVIL (Welded & Metal)

There is always good and evil in life.  The good is represented by the sturdy four-sided piece running through the middle, and the evil by the small dark sharp pieces welded in between.



This comment is taken from the history Otto did for the museum.  One of the first pieces I made and sold was a marble female torso which I think was about 2 ft. tall.  It was carved from a tombstone, one of may I salvaged from being thrown into the cement foundation of a caretaker’s building at Oak Grove Cemetery.  I’d better explain.  One day I got the idea of going over to the Monument Company and asking of they ever had an “old” gravestones that they threw away.  The manager said, “We just gave Roy Drake, the caretaker at the cemetery 2 or 3 truck loads and he is going to throw them into the cement when he pours the footing for his building.  Go out and see him.  I’m sure he will let you have all you want.”  I got 3 loads with my old Dodge automobile and still have some left.  The torso I carved was in an art show I had at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN.  Dr. Donat, a teacher at the school, bought it and I really felt a big thrill when I got his check.

POINT IN TIME (Welded & Metal)

This was made during the period when we sent men into space and at last to the moon.  Each viewer will find his own meaning in his own time in his own space.



Otto said, “I have made two bulls, one that Paul Anderson has, called “Minotaur,” (a monster with the body of a man and the head of a bull) and the one at the gallery of the University of Minnesota Extension at Morris MN.  I made that one not so much as a realistic animal but rather using the planes and angles that might suggest Placid Strength and the shape of a barn or large haystack.  I cut pieces from an old truck box that had burned and rusted, which I then welded together.  To me he suggests quiet strength and acceptance of his role in life.


                                      COMMENTS BY OTHER OWNERS




    SLOW STEPS (Welded & Metal)  I believe this was Dad’s very first dripped metal piece.  He entered it in the Rural Arts Show at the University of MN in 1960 and won first prize.  It needs no explanation; it’s just a beautiful rustic, rough representation of a turtle.  Dad gave it to me when I got married so it has been in my life for 54 years. I would feel lost without it!


    SALOME (Hammered Copper)  This plaque depicts the beautiful Salome who danced to obtain the head of John the Baptist for her mother.  It is a unique, interesting piece that is slowly aging with the natural green patina of copper.  It hangs in my living room next to a Charles Beck woodcut of a thistle I received as a wedding gift.  Two of my very favorite pieces of art.





    WAR (Ceramic Plaque) Grandpa gave us this as a wedding gift in 1977.  When we were given the piece, Grandpa explained that he was trying to show how war has evolved.  By placing the screw heads on the jaws he wanted to show how it had become more mechanical.  




    UNLEASHED (Welded & Metal)  Dad described this as “a bursting pod.”  Everyone sees something different though.  I see a hurricane-blown tree (makes sense living in FL!) and Vince sees a space ship.  I guess that’s true of most art.  




    ACQUAINTED WITH GRIEF  (Field Stone) Dad said this was the hardest piece he had ever done.  It was ordinary field stone but he said he had to use a diamond tipped concrete chisel to even dent it.  So it was fortunate that, as Otto said, “ It took very little real carving to bring out what I felt might be like the head of Christ.”  It was the only piece of field stone he ever tried to carve.




     MINOTAUR (Welded and Metal)  My Father, Paul Anderson, was a huge fan of Otto's work, as well as a friend and since we both lived near the Concord Street Bridge there was a great connection.  I received the Minotaur when my father passed away.  (My wife loves it!).    Otto gave me the piece called MAN REACHES THE MOON (Welded and Metal).  The pipe used in this piece is scrap from when they rebuilt the Concord Street Bridge.












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© Gregg Thompson