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Artist’s tribute blocks his pay

Sculptor behind Newport Beach monument won’t get his last $4,000 in fees until an inscription for a late friend is removed.

June 25, 2008|By Brianna Bailey

Newport Beach is withholding part of the money it owes an artist commissioned to sculpt the city’s centennial monument while the sculptor removes a tribute, emblazoned on the side of the monument, to an assistant who committed suicide in his studio.

Arkansas-based sculptor Hank Kaminsky said Wednesday that he will hire an artist from San Diego to remove a sentence from the monument memorializing an employee who took his own life earlier this year.

“This sculpture belongs as much to the city as it does to me, and everything that is on it is a statement on the community,” Kaminsky said. “I recognize that it shouldn’t be there. He is well-remembered and loved, but that was not the place to do it.”

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A welder and artist, the man did most of the welding on the Newport Beach monument before committing suicide underneath the sculpture in Kaminsky’s studio in Fayetteville, Ark., earlier this year. The man was a close friend of Kaminsky’s who worked for the sculptor for a number of years, he said.

“He was a troubled fellow who chose to take his life because of his own deep-seated problems,” Kaminsky said.

Set in low-relief on the side of the sculpture, the sentence reads “In memoriam...” and includes the employee’s name.

The sculpture will still include a tribute to the man in a less prominent place, along with Kaminsky’s other employees at the base of the monument, Kaminsky said.

City officials are pleased with the overall look and feel of Kaminsky’s large bronze sphere to commemorate the city’s centennial in 2006, except for the one small line of text on the side of the sculpture, said Kirwan Rockefeller, chairman of the Newport Beach Arts Commission.

“Hank has been so very responsive, and we recognized what a terrible thing this was for him and his crew,” Rockefeller said.

Kaminsky wrote to Rockefeller earlier this year to ask for permission to put a sentence memorializing his employee on the city monument, which Rockefeller didn’t have a problem with, he said.

City officials felt the memorial sentence was located too high up on the sculpture in a highly visible spot, Rockefeller said.

“We honor his contribution, but we just thought it was going to be at the bottom of the sphere,” Rockefeller said. “It’s simply a question of placement.”

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