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Artist specializes in restoring bronze; repairs Doughboy statue

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Posted: Monday, November 12, 2012 11:45 pm | Updated: 2:24 pm, Mon Jul 27, 2015.

More than 100 hours, four boxes of specialized conditioning discs and countless loads of patience.

Uncovering history is no easy task.

"I've spent so much time looking at this," said artist Ken Faraoni as he inspected a hulking bronze plaque that has graced Miller Park nearly a century. "My last words will probably be, 'Sic Semper Tyrannis.'"

Faraoni, a local sculptor specializing in bronze work, has been enlisted to help restore some of Lynchburg's ailing historical monuments.

Earlier this year, he fixed the busted bayonet on the iconic Listening Post, or Doughboy statue, at Monument Terrace.

He is now completing repairs on the 2nd Virginia Cavalry marker, which was erected in Miller Park in 1913.

The marker, which suffered from a missing scabbard and discolored plaque, commerates the place where the 2nd Virginia Cavalry organized and later disbanded "after years of valiant service with the army of Northern Virginia, and after cutting its way through the enemy's lines at Appomattox."

Faraoni, who has over the years worked on everything from monuments to monster movies, said tackling the restoration of a historic piece is a unique challenge.

"There's no book on it, because every restoration process is going to be different," he said. "You go out there and take tons of photographs and go over them for hours and days. Then it's researching and actually figuring out a way to do what needs to be done."

In the case of the Miller Park marker, Faraoni ended up remaking the AWOL scabbard out of a polyresin material made to mimic the appearance of the original's granite makeup.

The bronze plaque, which had turned green and blue from decades of exposure, was laboriously hand-polished by Faraoni until it was burnished back to its original gold and black.

"It's been a huge chunk of time, but it looks new now," said Faraoni, who described these recent restoration projects as a "lot more pressure" than the work he usually does creating pieces of his own design.

"To go to work on a piece of history is a whole other thing and you've got to be very respectful of it," he said. "You're out there working in the public. People stop and are curious and ask questions."

"When I worked on the Doughboy, I got to speak with a lot of the veterans who are out there on Fridays (at the weekly rallies to support the troops), which was amazing. They were very, very grateful the Doughboy was being repaired. It's great that people appreciated it. I've lived in a lot of places where people didn't seem to appreciate public art. But here, things like the Doughboy mean something to people."

Faraoni, who started sculpting at age 5 and was taking paid jobs by 15, was born in Washington, D.C., but lived all over the country before settling in Lynchburg two years ago,

"I came here to visit a friend and fell in love with the town," he said, noting Lynchburg's historical architecture was one of its chief draws. "I've met a lot of wonderful people here. I consider it to be my home."

Faraoni's studio in downtown Lynchburg is filled with bottles of brightly colored chemicals, wax molds that will be the basis of future pieces and ad-hoc equipment like dental tools and a Crock-Pot he's drafted into service.

"Working with bronze, you've got to be a little bit of a mad scientist, because this is all chemistry," he said as he described the more than 60 steps it takes to shepherd a piece from idea to finished product.

Faraoni sculpts whatever strikes his fancy. He's currently researching sea urchins for an idea that has recently been buzzing around his brain.

"I'm interested in a lot of different things," he said. "When I'm down in my shop, I can make whatever I want to make. It's just about pleasing myself and about what's in my heart. What do I think is beautiful."

"I learned a long time ago you don't do this for the money," he said. "That will kill you the quickest. If I'm done with something and I don't like it, then I'm in trouble."

The process of bronze sculpting is lengthy and demanding, but Faraoni said the results have a special appeal.

"It's the permanence of it," he said. "In my childhood, we moved around a lot and so much was up in the air. Nothing seemed permanent."

"With bronze, the environment can't really destroy it. It will age and patina, but that's because it's organic. Nothing lasts forever, but I think bronze is as close as you can get. People buy my stuff and know what they're buying will be an heirloom for their great-great grandchildren."

"There's a kind of thrill to that. It's like being part of history."

 

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