A master's touch: Destin sculptor uses centuries-old process to create art (PHOTOS)

Jacob Fuller
John Maher builds bronze sculptures like these, beginning in his home studio and ending at a foundry in Pensacola. His work, which also includes paintings and cast marble sculptures, will be on display at the Mattie Kelly Festival of the Arts.

If you've been inside an Alvin's Island store or one of many hospitals along Florida's Gulf Coast, you've likely seen one of John Maher's murals of sea life.

At this weekend's Mattie Kelly Festival of the Arts, you'll get a chance to see the products of Maher's true artistic love: sculpting.

A full-time Destin artist, Maher makes most of his living painting murals in and on building throughout Florida. Those murals help fund the expensive and time-consuming work that goes into his bronze and cast marble sculptures.

"It's a real labor-intensive process, I tell ya," Maher told The Log. "When I got into it, I didn't really realize the process took so long, and so much labor."

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He said he first wanted to become a sculptor after visiting California, just after graduating from high school in 1984. There, he saw the works of famed sculptor Richard McDonald.

"I was just amazed. He is modern-day master," Maher said. "I thought, 'some day I'm going to do it.' When I found some time and had the money to start, I pursued it."

Maher graduated from Florida State University with a degree in fine arts. After a short stint in a chiropractic school, Maher attended Scottsdale Artists School in Arizona, where he learned the centuries-old lost wax casting process of bronze sculpting. There are several steps involved and materials involved, including a furnace that heats the bronze to 2,200 degrees. For that part, Maher uses a foundry in Pensacola.

"I do all the foundry work myself," Maher said.

More recently, Maher has begun creating cast marble sculptures, a far different process and finished product. Maher's framed, cast marble sculptures, like many of his bronze sculptures, depict marine life.

Maher's sculptures will be on display at the Mattie Kelly Festival of the Arts this weekend. He said he enjoys getting feedback from people at such festivals. However, he said he still gets nervous when showing his work to large groups of people.

"It's nice to get some recognition," Maher said.

To check out Maher's work, visit his websites at johnmahermurals.com and johnmahersculpture.com.