With much pleasure, I take this opportunity to write about Will and Karen Pettee of WJP Studios. Both of these delightful artists have surely produced beautiful impressions of unique people and the natural environment that surpass the works of many of today’s top artists.
Of particular interest to me has been Will’s sculptures of John Muir, the great naturalist, who is often called “the father of America’s National Parks”. Will’s ‘John Muir Collection’ of busts and full body sculptures are created with such fine artistic detail that I can both ‘see and touch’ the realistic-looking features of his work.
One of my favorites is Will’s ‘Nature’s Prophet’ sculpture depicting John Muir sitting on a large rock, peacefully enjoying nature’s bountiful wildness like he did all of his life. Inspiring others to learn about John Muir’s legacy and to continue to conserve America’s precious natural resources is truly a heartfelt devotion of Will and Karen. As an author, it is one of my devotions as well.
Recently I asked Will and Karen’s permission to use their photo of ‘Nature’s Prophet’ sculpture for placing a tribute to John Muir on the photo’s back. The purpose of this photo and tribute card will be used to hand out to elementary school children when I make John Muir character presentations at their schools. Will and Karen’s enthusiasm in producing this card for me was outstanding! It clearly reflects their continuous enthusiasm for creating very excellent works of art and fulfilling their dreams of bringing enjoyment to others.
One of the most traditional ways to keeping the legacy of important people alive throughout the ages has been through sculpture. Until recently, John Muir has been under-represented in this all-important art form. There are only a few John Muir sculptures, usually one-of-a kind, often life-sized sculptures in public spaces.
Now, California sculptor Will Pettee is making available beautiful Muir sculptures and busts available for a wider audience. By making affordable editions as well as classic sculptures for public spaces, Pettee is helping to inspire greater appreciation and more deserving recognition for Muir. John Muir is such an inspirational figure that he is today not seen as merely a historical personage, but time and again people of all ages today refer to him as their inspiration to "climb the mountains and get their glad tidings," and to revere and protect our beautiful Earth. Will Pettee's evocative and beautiful John Muir sculptures deserve to be in every mountain-lovers home!
Volunteer Webmaster, Sierra Club John Muir Exhibit,
I wanted to let you and your wife know that I decided to give the sculpture to my husband last night instead of waiting -- mainly because the suspense was killing me and I was so excited to give it to him! He was so blown away by how gorgeous your work is and so excited because John Muir is one of his favorite people of all time. He absolutely loves it! He had just heard about the PBS special from their American Master Series that features John Muir and is going to air on Monday, which is his actual birthday. So he thought it was especially fitting that he received his gift on the same day as hearing about that event.
Thank you so much for making it happen in time and before our trip to Yosemite. You are truly a very talented artist and the customer service your studio provides is outstanding.
Thank you again for everything, and best of luck to you and your wife on your work and with your studio!
John Muir (1838-1914) was described during his lifetime as "John o' the mountains," a tribute to his passion as a naturalist for exploring, appreciating, and protecting the wildest places remaining in California. This bronze sculpture captures a special mountain moment in Muir's life and is a realistic life-like representation of Muir as we know him from photographs, descriptions by others, and his own self-reflections. Artist Will Pettee has energized Muir-the-mountaineer as he ponders the landscape before him. We can well imagine Muir saying to himself, "in every walk in Nature one receives far more than he seeks;" and "who wouldn't be a mountaineer! Up here all the world's prizes seem nothing.”
Director, John Muir Center
University of the Pacific
I have been quite impressed with your sculptures of John Muir. The “Mountain Muir” sculpture not only accurately captures Muir’s appearance, it brings his image to life in a pose that represents the man of action that Muir embodied throughout his life. Your work and its attention to detail is a powerful tribute to Muir’s legacy, and is among the best artistic renderings of him that I have seen.
Former Associate Dean and Head of Special Collections
University of the Pacific Library (Home of the John Muir Papers)