MARC SIJAN, World Leader
For Realism in Sculpture
This is the story of a Milwaukee man, an extremely talented sculptor whose works are found all over the world and who in fact is rated Number One in his genre, yet is better known in cities of Europe, Asia and The Middle East than he is right here in his own home town.
His name is Marc Sijan. His Artform is Hyper Realism.
Most People relate the art of sculpture, and especially the sculpture of the human body, with the works of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Such as the Venus de Milo and Michelangelo’s David. There are, however, other types of sculpture depicting the human form. One of them is called “Hyper Realistic” sculpture. If you were ever fortunate enough to observe, up close, works such as the Venus de Milo and David, you’d probably be very impressed with their beauty and workmanship. But you would never think of them as looking exactly like the humans they depicted. Conversely, if you were to view Hyper Realistic sculpture up close, you’d be absolutely amazed. The sculpture would look exactly like a human being. In fact you likely wouldn’t completely believe your eyes and would reach out and touch it to make sure it was alive.
There are hundreds of top quality art galleries throughout the world that exhibit Hyper Realistic sculpture. Rating lists exist for those sculptors, much as there are ratings systems for athletes, resorts or restaurants. Those ratings are based on degrees of originality, detail and other factors. For Hyper Realistic sculptors, as it is for other forms of sculpting, those lists are published in art magazines. I looked at one of them, which detailed the top 20 Hyper Realistic sculptors today. It was then that I read about the most recent sculptor rating, where Sijan had moved from No. Two in the world to No. One, a tremendous honor.
Sijan is a very private individual, and rarely talks about himself despite his world class skill as a sculptor and his many awards and accolades. His magniﬁcent sculptures have won him fans throughout the globe. His staunchest fan, however, has always been his lovely wife Patricia. When I asked her about her husband’s recent ranking upgrade, she smiled and replied that the ranking of Number One in the world should have been awarded to him long time ago. Wives of highly successful men always seem to say things like that. It’s a clue to why those successful men are the way they are.
Sijan’s Studio is located on a small side street in Milwaukee’s Bay View south side. It’s deﬁnitely off the beaten path, which is exactly what he wants. He spends a tremendous amount of time on a single sculpture, taking from six months to a year to complete just one. ( He pointed out, however, that he works on several at the same time.) Quiet and solitude are a must for the great concentration to detail that is necesary in his work.
I was completely astounded the ﬁrst time I walked into his studio. It is ﬁlled with dozens of life- sized sculptures, and every one has its own story. Some of the sculptures are standing like an ordinary statue. Others are sitting, some are curled into a box, others are lying on the ﬂoor. I pointed to one of an aged African beggar, lying on a tattered mat, his arm and hand out, pleading for food. Sijan told me the story of how he was walking through a marketplace in a small African village one day and saw the man. He said he asked if he could photograph him and do a sculpture of him, and the beggar of couse agreed, as the request came with a sizeable offering. Sijan never creates a sculpture of anyone without obtaining the person’s permission. He told me about his conversations with the beggar, and the story of his plight and the village he lived in. We talked for quite some time about just the one sculpture. If I had asked him to tell me the story of every one of them, I‘d probably still be there listening.
You would think, with all his skills, that Sijan would create sculptures of beautiful humans, women such as Marilyn Monroe or male athletes such as Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not so. A few of his creations are of good looking people, such as a young lady with a towel, but the vast majority are of all shapes and forms, some scrawny, other obese, some old, some young, some weak, some burly, the gamut of humanity. Sijan is like a superb writer in that regard who writes not only about the rich and famous, but instead about all facets of life on earth. Like the writings of any good author, Sijan’s work’s of sculpture tell a story.
His creations have been featured in galleries, museums and special exhibits all over the world. They include the Smithsonian Museum of Modern Art in Washington, D.C, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Sijan is of Serbian descent, and is proud to have been honored as one of the most prominent Serbian Americans in the world. He has had over 60 one-man museum exhibitions, a truly exceptional achievement. Most artists are overjoyed to have only one or two exhibits.
There are many collectors of Hyper Realistic art. One such collector is Senator Herb Kohl, who is also owner of the Milwaukee Bucks professional basketball team. It was because of one of these sculptures he gave to the Bucks that led me to write this story.
The Bucks Training Center is located at 3501 S. Lake Drive. As you enter the lobby, one of the ﬁrst things you see is a security guard, sitting near the receptionist window. One day when I went there to attend a Bucks Media Day, I saw him myself. As I walked in, I said hello to the guard, got no response and said hello again. He seemed perfectly normal, but wasn’t moving. I wondered if perhaps he was asleep with his eyes open. So I went over and touched him on the shoulder, to awaken him or to get some kind of response. It was then that I discovered to my embarrassment that I’d been trying to talk to a sculpture.
The name tag on his chest identiﬁed him, tongue in cheek to be sure, as “Art.”
I learned later from one of the Bucks media execs that “Art” fools just about everyone. Most people are pleasantly amused and entertained by him, but there are exceptions. Former NBA superstar Michael Jordan came into the lobby one day and reportedly became quite angry when he felt ‘Art” was ignoring him and refusing to answer his questions; so much so that he made a point of complaining about him to the Bucks ofﬁcials.
I asked Sijan about “Art.” He laughed. “Actually, there is another guard sculpture similar to Art in the lobby of the Wisconsin Center” he explained. “ I really appreciate the exposure both of them have provided for me, but on the other hand, they tend to give the wrong impression of my work. I’ve created hundreds of sculptures in hundreds of different guises that have been and are exhibited in galleries and museums all over the world, but the only ones most Milwaukeeans see are those two security guards,” he said.
Sijan’s works have to be seen; mere words don’t adequately describe them. I’ll try to explain. Look at yourself in a mirror, up close. You see those tiny little wrinkles and hairs, the veins beneath the skin and perhaps a tiny mole or a wart or some pimples. Look at the color and texture of your skin and hair. Then the same for you entire body, and observe the shape and size of your torso, arms and legs. There are so many inﬁnitismal things even a good photograph
would not reveal. All of that is in every one of Marc Sijan’s creations. It doesn’t seem possible, but that’s what Hyper Realistic Sculpture is, and what Sijan does.
Here’s a few comments from the art world.
From Bruce Helander, the White House Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts: “Hyperrealism came into vogue in the 1970s with the works of Duane Hanson, whose recreations of everyday people were in a class of their own. Artist John De Andrea took the proccess a step further by recreating ﬁgures in their natural state. Today, sculptor Marc Sijan has become one of the most successful and innovative artists in the world. His work… has brought hyper-illusion as another aesthetic component into modern ﬁgurative sculpture that is celebrated in museums and gallery exibitions around the world.
From Louis Zona, Executive Director of the famed Butler Institute of American Art. “It is not just the technical excellence of the work that draws crowds to his exhibitions. The art is thought provoking and timely, with regard to theme and subject. His remarkable sculptures deserve to be included with the best narrative art of the modern era. I simply could not praise an artistic talent more enthusiastically.”
From James Auer, former art editor of the Milwakee Journal. “Awe. Wonder. Surprise. Bemuzement. Puzzlement. And no wonder. For Sijan’s almost too believable imagery is the stuff magic is made of. It’s tactile, persuasive, seductive and illusive.” From Alan Eisenberg, contributing editor, Conquistador. “Sijan is one of the greatest artists of our time. He is a latter-day Michelangelo, but his sculpures have reached a level of perfection that Michelangelo only dreamt of.”
From Polly Bales of the Hansen Museum of art. “ Marc Sijan’s exhibitions of ultra realistic sculptures has been the most widely received of any exhibit we have had in the past 24 years, It even beat out the Degas exhibit.” That’s enough. In reality, I found dozens of quotes and comments from gallery owners, museum directors and private owners, but there’s not enough room here to list more.
I haven’t offered much here on Marc’s personal life and his background, but he prefers it that way. As noted, he is a very private individual. I did discover he was born in 1946, which makes him 67, but in truth he looks half that age. All the work he does, thousands of hours a year, working every day of the week, must be wonderful exercise. I also found out that he attended Bay View High School, loved sports, then earned a degree from UW-Whitewater and an advanced degree from UW-Milwaukee.
Another truly remarkable aspect of the man is that until he was into his 20s he had never given a thought to sculpture or becoming a sculptor. He attended Whitewater to earn a degree in teaching. One of his classes there had to do with teaching art. He became more and more interested in art and then speciﬁcally in sculpture to the degree that he switched his major. The world of education lost what may have been a pretty good teacher. The world of art, however, has gained, what many said, is a genius.