Arts and Culture | Local

‘Storyteller’ is focal point for local sculptor’s one-man show in Santa Fe

“The Storyteller,” life-size bronze sculpture by David Unger
“The Storyteller,” life-size bronze sculpture by David Unger

Tucson sculptor David Unger will have a one-man show July 4-31 at Bill Hester Fine Art in Santa Fe, N.M. The show will feature more than 30 of his bronze sculptures, and Unger is particularly excited about his life-size piece, “The Storyteller.”

“The Storyteller” can hold children in its encircling arms as they imagine it telling them “stories about anything, but more specifically I had in mind that it would tell people about Holocaust stories, so kids would know what went on,” he told the AJP.

The life-size piece is 6 feet high and Unger really does want children to climb on it and sit on it.

“The museums would hate me, but I think sculptures should be touched,” says Unger. Unlike a painting, with a sculpture, “people need to touch it, feel it, run their hands over it and I think that you should be able to feel the energy that the sculptor has imparted to it.”

One life-size copy of “The Storyteller” is in a garden outside a library near Chicago, he says, “and they told me kids sit in it all the time.” He’s also made “The Storyteller” in a smaller, tabletop size.

Unger works in clay before his pieces are cast in bronze, using the lost-wax method. He makes a limited edition of 12 of each sculpture, then breaks the mold.

His art has two main themes: love and Judaism. Many pieces combine the two, such as his popular “My Beloved,” inspired by the Song of Solomon. Another, “Wedding Song,” is based on the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” Unlike many modern sculptors, he often features couples in his work.

The sculpture garden at the Tucson Jewish Community Center is home to one of his creations, “Joy of Life.” Other pieces are exhibited in galleries and private collections worldwide.

Unger began sculpting as a child of 11 or 12 and studied art in college, but put sculpting aside for about 30 years while he and his wife, Kathy, ran the Martin Wheel Company in Akron, Ohio. The company, which had been started by Kathy’s parents, manufactured small wheels for golf carts, boat trailers and more.

Unger took up sculpting again after they moved to Tucson and now, at 73, spends a good deal of time in his studio. “I tell Kathy I’m just going in there for 20 minutes to change one thing, and suddenly four hours have gone by.”

Over the years, he’s developed a distinctive style. “I like angles and planes complemented by rounded corners,” he explains. He has so many ideas that he usually has about six pieces in process at once.

Articles on Unger will appear in the forthcoming issues of SouthwestArt magazine and The Santa Fean. Hester, the Santa Fe gallery owner, tells him he’s fairly famous, though Unger says he has trouble believing it’s true. He does acknowledge that being featured at a Santa Fe gallery during the high season is “quite an honor.”

Unger’s work can also be seen at Art Gallery H in Tubac, Ariz., which is located at 8 Plaza Road, or at his website,