Bronze art is something Dave Biehl is known for now, but he started out on a different path. "I grew up on a farm northwest of Lexington, and from the time I was a little kid I always wanted to be a veterinarian," Biehl said.
For 40 years, he practiced veterinary medicine in Hastings. But at age 53, his path took a turn. He decided to try art. "I'd never done any art before, and had no training in it," Biehl said. "But I watched some guys doing sculpture, and it looked intriguing. I thought I would get some clay and try to do that."
His plan was to produce just one small sculpture for himself. That's not exactly what happened. "At this point in time, I've done seven life-sized monument type sculptures for people and more than 60 small sculptures. So in total, I've done close to 70 sculptures now," Biehl said.
Biehl's story goes to show that you can always try something new.
"I think it's important that you find something that you really enjoy doing," Biehl said. "For me, this is not work. This is absolutely pure joy to work with my hands and work with clay and create, and I just totally enjoy it, and it's very relaxing for me."
Some of his memorable works include a tribute to the Martin Brothers. "My first life-sized sculpture was done of the Martin Brothers. They were two boys caught in an Indian raid, and they were hit with arrows and actually pinned together," Biehl said. You can see the Martin Brothers sculpture outside the Hastings Museum, as well as at the Stuhr Museum, and outside the Kearney Archway. His other life-sized work is also eye-catching.
"I've got a life-sized piece called "Fearless", and it's a Native American that is on a horse. The horse is rearing up, and there's a buffalo charging in underneath. It's up on Stolley Park Road in Grand Island. Also, a life-sized sculpture that I just finished goes to the Henry Doorly Zoo, and that's Dr. Lee Simmons and his wife Marie holding a baby gorilla. That will go just inside the entry way at the Henry Doorly Zoo."
Biehl says it can take up to 200 hours to make his lifesized work.
His clay pieces are taken to Loveland, Colorado to a mold maker.
A mold is made, and then it's taken to a foundry where it's poured into bronze. "I have two pieces being poured right now," Biehl said. "One is Miguel Keith who is a medal of honor recipient from the Vietnam war. Miguel went to Omaha North, enlisted in the Marines at age 17, and was killed a year later at age 18 in Vietnam. He was credited with saving 20 American lives, and the Navy is actually building a ship and naming it after him."
Biehl says he enjoys depicting historical events. He says he has more work to come. "I was just commissioned to do a project in western Nebraska, that will consist of 5 to 6 life-sized bronzes. I will be working on that likely over the next year," Biehl said.
Demand for his work is growing, but Biehl says he's glad his path has led him to something he still as a passion for doing each day. "For me, it's not a job," Biehl said.