The Montgomery Museum of Art and History will present an exhibit of Lawrence “Larry” Bechtel’s sculpture beginning on Saturday, Nov. 17, and continuing through January of 2023.
The exhibit opens with a reception open to the public on Nov. 17 at the museum from 5 to 7 p.m.
Bechtel’s sculptures always tell a story. The storytelling comes from teaching English at Virginia Tech and telling children’s stories at the Blacksburg New School.
In 1971 Bechtel graduated from Wheaton College near Chicago where his father taught literature and his mother was a librarian. He earned a master’s degree from Virginia Tech in 1985 and is a published author of the first two volumes of a historical fiction trilogy, “The Tinsmith’s Apprentice,” and a collection of short stories, “’The House of Poetry’ and other stories.”
Among Bechtel’s sculptures is “That I May Serve,” a memorial to K-9’s killed in action. The piece normally resides at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech but will be moved to the Montgomery Museum especially for this exhibit.
A police dog from Virginia Tech, Boris was chosen as the model for “That I May Serve” not only because he was a large, handsome specimen of German Shepherd but also because he was especially well trained by his handler, Keith Weaver.
Bechtel spent time with the police officers and their dogs and got to know how they work together. He noticed the affection the officers had for their animals, who actually live with them. Once, when a student popped out of a residence hall unexpectedly, Bechtel saw Boris freeze and fixate on the stranger, ears pricked, waiting for any command.
Bechtel chose this pose at the point of maximum alertness for his sculpture. He made a small model called a maquette and showed it to the police officers, who suggested two changes: the dropped arched tail and one lifted paw to represent the dog’s willingness to serve and obey any command.
The story behind another sculpture in the museum exhibit “Calling the Powers” springs from the sculptor’s own heart and mind, as it is not a commissioned work. A woman, a sort of shaman, strives to climb a mountain during a windy storm. When she makes it to the top, she drops to her knees, crying and beckoning amid wind, thunder, and lightning. The woman stretches out her arms and communes with the powers, her hair flying behind her in the wind.
“Calling the Powers” is probably the most loved of Bechtel’s sculptures to date and can usually be found along the Roanoke Greenway behind Black Dog Salvage in Masters Memorial Park. Again, the sculpture has been moved from that location to Montgomery Museum.
Also included among the many works in the exhibition are “Addison Caldwell,” depicting the first student to enroll in Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, now called Virginia Tech, and “Officer Down,” a memorial to fallen police officers, which is on loan from the Roanoke Police Department.
Sue Farrar, former executive director and current Art Coordinator of the museum said, “We have been trying for years to get an exhibition of Larry Bechtel’s work. He is known nationally and internationally.”
Bechtel is a member of the National Sculpture Society and has studied with some of the foremost sculptors, including Richard MacDonald, Louise Petersen, Janet Mauro, Garland Weeks, and Simon Kogan.