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Laura Foster and Ed Lavarnway along with an original "Bronco Buster" bronze and a computer-assisted copy at the Remington.
Laura Foster and Ed Lavarnway along with an original "Bronco Buster" bronze and a computer-assisted copy at the Remington.

Using high tech to create nearly perfect copies of a Remington icon

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Artist Frederic Remington's bronze sculptures of cowboys, native Americans, and cavalry are considered prized collector's items. The Remington Museum in Ogdensburg is using the latest digital technology to reproduce one of Remington's first and most popular sculptures, The Bronco Buster. Original sculptures, cast in multiples, were made and sold during Remington's lifetime. The museum is using an original casting in its collection as a model for a series of 3-D laser-scanned copies.

Todd Moe visited the Remington Museum for a chat with curator Laura Foster and executive director Ed Lavarnway about using computers and high tech cameras to create hyper-accurate reproductions of Remington's art.

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Todd Moe
Morning Host and Producer

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Slideshow: How the process works

Curator, Laura Foster, and executive director, Ed Lavarnway, believe that these computerized castings are the best reproductions ever made. Lavarnway explained, “With the Bronzes, there’s a wide array in the marketplace of quality.”

While Remington was alive he supervised the production of the bronzes, and if he didn’t think one was good enough he wouldn’t let it go to the market, said Lavarnway. However, after Remington died the quality diminished, and as a result many poor bronzes came to market, he said.

“This technology produces a copy, that’s almost indistinguishable from the original,” Lavarnway stated, “unless you know where to look.”

Foster explained the reproduction process, that uses a Konica Minolta laser camera attached to a laptop. “The laser scanned every detail of the surface of our Bronco Buster cast made in 1896,” she said. “The data gather every detail of form and texture to create a data file that was fed into a stereo lithography machine to make three-dimensional prints in plastic.”

It is then sent to a foundry, she said, which ”uses state-of-the-art lost-wax bronze casting technique, which is science and art and manufacture all rolled up together. ”

“I visit the foundry, which is in Chester, Pennsylvania during the wax stage… I photograph and make notes, and give them very detailed instructions on each, basically hollow cast,” explained Foster, “it’s a red wax they look kind of like red licorice Easter bunnies.” Foster then leaves the foundry to come back at a later date.

The foundry casts the waxes in bronzes, which takes a while, and then gets the new bronzes cleaned up for Foster’s return.

“I go in again with a sharpie, and I mark and draw on any place that looks like it needs a little smoothing or a little fix or maybe this isn’t right and I take pictures and once again give them detailed notes.They perfect the form and do the final step, which is to add the patina,“ she said.

There were more Bronco Busters made, over 340, than any other Remington sculpture. “To many people this is Frederic Remington, The Bronco Buster.” There are many reproductions in the market with varying quality, but these new reproductions are as close to Bronco Buster number 23 as science and art can make,” Ed Lavarnway said.

There are two originals at the museum, number 23 and number 275, and number 275 is not as crisp and basically as good as number 23, he said. Market value on 275 is around $85,000 dollars, where number 23 is worth as much as $2.4 million dollars.

“We’ve produced something for a Remington buff that is as much like as this very expensive piece, and are selling them for $8000 dollars,” Lavernway said. Bronco Buster is the most iconic Remington bronze and the museum’s best seller, followed by Rattlesnake and Mountain Man.

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