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WATCH: College helps artist bring sculpture one step closer to reality

by Tanner Newton | August 28, 2021 at 4:03 a.m.
Michael Karr, Makerspace program coordinator at National Park College, performs a 3D scan of Longhua Xu’s sculpture of a Native American woman on horseback that will be used to make a mold for a 12-foot-tall version of it. - Photo by Tanner Newton of The Sentinel-Record

A project of local artist Longhua Xu that has been five years in the making is one step closer to fruition with the help of National Park College.

Hot Springs artist Longhua Xu started a sculpture for Hot Springs in 2016 that originally was to depict conquistador Hernando de Soto, but now the artwork, titled "The Visitor," depicts a Native American woman on horseback.

"Since my wife and me, we've been living here since 1989, so this (makes Hot Springs) like a second home. We're trying to give something to the society and make a mark on the home we live," Xu said.

"So we decided to make a sculpture for the city," he said, noting at first he wanted to make a sculpture of de Soto, "because we think of why people come here ... for the waters."

A few years later they decided "we have some problems with that ... we think that de Soto killed too much people, so we think OK, so we change to Indians," he said.

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Xu initially changed the sculpture from de Soto on horseback to a generic Caucasian man and then to a Native American man, he said.

"I finished the design," he said. "I finished the drawing and I finished the sculpture, and we liked it then last year my wife (Shunying Chen) had a car accident and passed away, so I realized how much women, you know, in our life is so important to take care of society and take care of the families, so I switched and made it a female.

"After my wife passed away I think well, 'The woman actually does more good for the society to take care of us,' plus there's not many big sculptures to do with a female, especially with Indians. Everywhere I've traveled, it's always a male, chief on the horseback, I think the female deserves to have nice sculpture," Xu said.

After finishing the latest version of the piece, Xu said he started looking around for someone to create a three-dimensional scan of the piece, eventually locating someone in Oklahoma with the equipment.

"Unfortunately, I cannot move the sculpture over there because it's very fragile," he said.

The people in Oklahoma could bring the equipment to Hot Springs, "but it cost a lot of money," he said.

Xu later learned National Park College had a 3D scanner and reached out to the college, which agreed to help.

The college said its Makerspace program used a three-dimensional scanner to create a rendering of the piece that can be used to make a mold and eventually reproduce the work into a 12-foot bronze statue.

The college staff spent most of the day on Aug. 19 working to scan Xu's sculpture.

"To get a detailed scan, it will most likely take me four to five hours, minimum," Michael Karr, Makerspace program coordinator at NPC, said.

"He asked for our help and we have the means to help. What I'm doing is using this 3D scanner, which uses two different cameras to create depth, and I'm using it to scan this sculpture, and the hope is that Longhua will be able to take this model and get it machined and be able to create a full-size sculpture," Karr said.

"You will get it machined out of foam, CNC machines, and then the details will end up being 3D printed out of resin, as well," Karr said.

"It will probably take several months. There's usually a backlog on CNC machines as it is. I would say probably about six months," he said.

Joel Rush, director of the Makerspace at NPC, was also in attendance when the scanning took place.

"Longhua called and we've worked on some other art projects with him before, and he called and said he had this problem that was going to cost a lot of money to solve and asked if I could help, or if we could help, and turns out we already had the stuff in place on campus to actually be able to do this, which we are very thankful for at the Makerspace," Rush said.

"I think it's great any time we can do something at the college to support local artists or a big community project like this, that's the kinds of things we're there to do," he said, noting he likes the sculpture.

"I look at this kind of like a love story from Longhua to Hot Springs," Rush said.

Xu said he was thankful for the college's help. "They're super nice people," he said.

When finished, Xu said the sculpture will be placed near the intersection of Malvern Avenue and Bridge Street and his hope is that the entire project will be finished and installed in "another eight months to a year."

Michael Karr, Makerspace program coordinator at National Park College, places dots on Longhua Xu’s sculpture to help with a 3D scan of the artwork. - Photo by Tanner Newton of The Sentinel-Record
Michael Karr, Makerspace program coordinator at National Park College, places dots on Longhua Xu’s sculpture to help with a 3D scan of the artwork. - Photo by Tanner Newton of The Sentinel-Record
Dots are placed on Longhua Xu’s sculpture as part of the 3D scanning process. - Photo by Tanner Newton of The Sentinel-Record
Dots are placed on Longhua Xu’s sculpture as part of the 3D scanning process. - Photo by Tanner Newton of The Sentinel-Record

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