Art of an artist

Sculptor Leon has fascination
for the late Harlan Hubbard

His statue of the late author-artist is striking

By Amy Casebier
Contributing Writer

(September 2007) – The idea of sustainable living has now been sustained through art. The legacy and lifestyle of Harlan and Anna Hubbard of Trimble County, Ky., has been immortalized in a sculpture of Harlan by John Leon, an artist from the Cincinnati area.

John Leon

Photo by Don Ward

John Leon with his sculpture of Harlan Hubbard.

The Hubbards made their life in Payne Hollow, located on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River just downstream from Hanover College. They lived a simple life without electricity or money. Relying on bartering and using “found” and self-created objects to make their lives easier, they sustained themselves for more than 30 years at Payne Hollow.

“He wanted to make his life a work of art,” said Bill Caddell, a retired librarian from the Frankfort, Ind., Community Public Library.

Caddell, a Hanover College alumnus, first met the Hubbards during his sophomore year in 1962. “It was a wonderful experience to go down there,” he said.

Caddell helped the Hubbards by finding them some of the things they needed and could not make for themselves, such as watercolor paper and masonite, Caddell said.

The Hubbards’ simple life inspired many people throughout the years, including Leon.

John Leon Sculpture

Photo by Don Ward

John Leon’s sculpture of Harlan Hubbard was a
hit at last spring’s symposium at Hanover College.
Leon became interested in the Hubbards and their
way of life after attending a lecture
about them in Cincinnati.

“It’s a powerful statement a man can make, living your life the way you want to live it,” Leon said. “It appeals to me.”

Leon became interested in Hubbard after hearing on of Caddell’s lectures about the Hubbards’ way of life.

There was an ice storm during the program, and the facility lost power.

“I talked about Harlan by candlelight,” Caddell said, recalling that evening.

Caddell and Leon spoke afterward. Caddell suggested that Leon make a statue of Hubbard. After picking up a couple of library books and gathering several different photos of Hubbard, Leon began his work.

“People that knew Harlan would come and give advice on the piece,” he said. Completing the piece took about two years. Caddell purchased a bronze cast of the statue.

Leon unveiled his gypsum statue at the program on simple living and the Hubbards called “A River Way of Life,” presented by the Rivers Institute at Hanover College in March of this year. Many people who had known Hubbard during their lifetimes recognized the likeness of the statue to its subject, he said. The statue captured a view of Hubbard from just below the waist and up. Hubbard is shown with his hand on one hip and a hoe over his shoulder. The piece tries to illustrate the ruggedness and freedom of the Hubbards’ simple life, Leon said.

“Harlan Hubbard would be happy for John to create his image,” Caddell said.

Leon is a sculptor who specializes in bronze, wood and stone. Many of his pieces are inspired by faces, jazz and cubism, he said. His work is represented in three galleries, Heike Pickett Gallery in Versailles, Kentucky, Fifth Street Gallery in Cincinnati, and Bryant Galleries in New Orleans.

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