The Bataan Death March Memorial

Kelley S. Hestir - Concept Artist, Sculptor, Site Designer

Model To Finish

Beginning the Clay Maquette

I chose to model the maquette at half life size (36"). This is a traditional scale, it has presence, is large enough for detail and expressiveness and is of a manageable size.


First the armature (internal support structure) is built using steel mesh and aluminum wire. Oil-based clay is then applied and the figure modeling begins.  At this stage the fine tuning of the composition is finalized. (The back of this piece must be especially dynamic.)

In order for the human anatomy to be convincing after

the "uniforms" are added, it must be accurate without

them. The photos (right) are of the figures at this stage.

The fatigue and weight loss the soldiers experienced after

months of fighting in the jungle is depicted here. The "uniforms"

will obscure the detailed anatomy, but do not eliminate it.

The first step of modeling - get the anatomy and composition correct.

If these are flawed,no amount of detail can ever correct it.

The ex-POWs Arrive - First Moment of Truth

When the maquette was about 3/4 complete (as seen at right) it was time for the surviving POWs to see it. Three of them, and their wives arrived on that Oct. afternoon. They were quite pleased with the progress and suggested only one change -that the 'leggings" were inaccurate (I had seen then in an historic photo but was told they were probably only worn by officers).

photo - Kelley S. Hestir

36" maquette, just prior to approval by ex-POWs.


(left) Bataan Survivors Weldon Hamilton, Mike Polace and Lorenzo Benegas after reviewing the 36" model before its completion (Oct. 15, 2001). Mike Polace and Lorenzo Banegas passed away two months later.


The Finished Clay Maquette

With the Bataan survivor's unanimous approval, I finished sculpting the first "Heroes of Bataan". The next step was to drive the model to Berkeley, Ca. where Artworks foundry would begin the enlargement process.  In the past this involved the painstaking process of measuring 3-D coordinates, dropping plum lines and carefully laying up clay. Few people know how to do it now.

Today we use scanners computers and automated milling machines.  The clay modeled cannot be scanned so first a mold was taken from it. As usual, the original clay piece was destroyed. The mold was used to cast a wax and this was sent to the enlargement company, cut into many sections and scanned using a 3-D scanner. The data was then enlarged using proprietary software, and sent to a huge milling machine that carved the enlarged sculpture out of a piece of rigid polyethylene foam. These pieces were reassembled with wood dowels and glue. The final modeling began by making adjustments to the foam statue by carving the foam where needed and then laying up a 'skin' of oil-based clay and sculpting.  Changes are made in the 8' sculpture, in reference to the viewer,  to compensate for the larger than life scale.

Because the 60th anniversary was only weeks away, each figure was removed from the group as soon as it was finished. I never saw the finished group together until after they were cast and welded back together! Not an ideal situation for a sculptor.

The Maquette in Bronze

I always loved the original version of "Heroes of Bataan" and feel it makes a perfect museum/collector's/war memorial statue at it's 36" in scale. I contracted the Artworks Foundry to cast the first of this edition at the same time the 8 ft. version was being cast. This bronze was shown at the dedication ceremony in,at a private event and at the site of the Bataan Memorial Run of 2000. Though a few art galleries have expressed an interest in showing it, I have kept it in my private possession since the year it was made.

I am honored that the statue may now grace the Taos plaza in remembrance of our local heroes of Bataan and their families. --- Kelley S. Hestir, April 2004

The finished clay maquette, November 2000.

Working on the group of three soldiers. The Filipino soldier was removed shortly after the shot was taken so this was the last time I was able to sculpt the figures as a group. The 36" maquette, now in wax, can be seen at right. It served as a critical reference when modeling the enlargement.

Completed Maquette in bronze

Working on the enlarged Filipino soldier.

The carved foam can be seen at right.

photo - Kevin Hestir


Casting the final bronze sculpture

To the right is a slide show of the bronzed casting process from model to finished piece.


uncredited images © Kelley S. Hestir

website - Darrol Shillingburg