JOHN LIBBERTON HAS packed several lifetimes of success into his 92 years. He helped pioneer TV commercials with Foote, Cone and Belding, gave that up after 30 years to do voice-overs for radio and all the while was (ahem) carving out a career as a sculptor, working on mega-size pieces of marble in Carrara, Italy,
It’s available for download and I plan to do
and on smaller ones in his home studio. Locally, his iconic sail sculpture
“Bolinar — Close to the Wind” anchors the northern entrance to down-
town Sausalito. Before we talk about sculpture, we have to ask: were those
early years of TV advertising just like Mad
Men? Oddly, I never watched Mad Men.
that. How long have you been sculpting?
All my life, 50 or 60 years, even between trips while I was working at the
ad agency. I started out doing wood carving and then graduated to marble.
Why marble? Marble is a wonderful material. One of my favorite marbles
is Italian statuario, which is the warm, white marble that Michelangelo
used for the “Pieta” and the “David.” I also like Thassos marble, which
is from the Greek island of that name. It’s a warm, white marble, very
fine-grained. Did you study sculpture? No, never. We all used to carve
something out of a piece of soap in grammar school. Didn’t you do that?
Do you have a favorite tool? I don’t have one favorite tool. Many tools are
important for each job — diamond saws, pneumatics, grinders, hammers,
points, sanders. All are important and necessary for each project. How
can an artist be commercially successful? You have to be very talented
and very good; otherwise it’s a terrible waste of time. Some people think
they’re doing good work and they may sell it to friends, but they’re not
going to sell it commercially. Artistically, have you changed since you were
younger? I’ve always liked simplicity and I like geometric forms. That is
what I enjoy best. You’re drawn to classic shapes. Very true, very true. But,
I don’t like to do anything that’s derivative. I like them to be unique to me.
What’s been the most interesting thing about your life? I haven’t thought
about that. I’ve had such a varied life doing sculpture, jewelry, painting,
doing voice-overs and television production, and traveling. It’s been special, to have all these varied interests and being pretty successful at all of
them. And here you are. Yes, I am. I’m still doing it. m
In Marin / CURRENTS
John Libberton, sculptor,
This Sausalito sculptor has built success
into his long life. BY TIM PORTER
ON THE JOB