Having a statue in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the United States Capitol Building is an accomplishment in itself. An Aberdeen artist has two of his pieces on display.
Benjamin Victor recently returned to Aberdeen after unveiling his second statue in Washington, D.C.
It's back to his South Dakota studio on the campus of Northern State University this week, back to long hours turning clumps of clay into statues seen by many.
"It was amazing. Here we are in the U.S. Capitol, in the rotunda and we unveil Borlaug's statute and the whole crowd gets a hush over it and everybody's looking," Victor said.
Each state has two statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection. Iowa unveiled its latest last week. It’s a statue of Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Peace Prize winner known for his work in agriculture and combating world hunger.
That's the second sculpture Victor has unveiled in the Capitol. He had another in 2005.
"I never thought I'd have one in Statuary Hall. With that first piece, Sarah Winnemucca, that opportunity, I said to myself on that trip, ‘wow, this is once in a lifetime. This is amazing,’” Victor said. “And to be here nine years later with another piece in Statuary Hall, I just am floored. I can't believe it."
Victor says that's still true as he's back in his studio working on other projects. He still can't believe what he was doing last week, even though it was his second chance to take in the whole experience.
"I think I soaked it in a little more this time because I was kind of ready for the process and all the procedures that go into it," Victor said.
Victor competed with dozens of other artists for the commission in the first place. Then his work needed approval from Washington, D.C. It took a couple years to finish the statue.
Victor says his mindset toward having a second piece in Statuary Hall changed throughout the process. Of course the thought of it early on, he says, was appealing.
"But then after I started to study Borlaug and his life, I realized it was a little less about me or anything that I'm doing in my art and more about how amazing Norman Borlaug was," Victor said.
Victor says he learns a lot about people when doing the research required to create a sculpture of them. He says he was affected by Borlaug's commitment to addressing world hunger.
"That's what impacted me, just to think that somebody can approach and tackle a problem that large and really dedicate their whole life to it," Victor said.
Victor has dedicated a lot to his art. The portfolio he's built at his age of 35 proves he's been successful. There's no saying exactly how his future will look. At this point sculpting will certainly remain part of it.
"Still, just playing in the mud,” Victor said. “It's great, good time."