Bryna McCann
David Smith, Tanktotem Series, Bolton Landing dock, Lake George, New York, c. 1953 Photo from Darien Community Association

Bryna McCann is a sculptor living and working in Hudson Valley, NY. In the following article, Bryna McCann talks about her earliest influence and how it led to working with Christopher Plummer on a large-scale outdoor sculpture. Inspired by the freestanding welded metal works of Pablo Picasso and Julio Gonzalez in the 1930’s, David Smith pioneered the art of welded sculpture in America. His work served as a major early influence on Bryna McCann. In particular, what made the most significant on Bryna was David Smith’s approach to form and ability to synthesize the influences of Surrealism, Cubism, and Abstract Expressionism into a unique language that was distinctively American. Despite the industrial materials and construction techniques that defined his style, his sculptures nonetheless maintained a deeply personal, almost introspective, disposition.

Bryna McCann first learned to weld in the prop shops of the La Jolla Playhouse and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada. Bryna McCann would later go on to deepen her craft under the tutelage of sculptor David Boyajian, where she refined her fabrication skills and explored the capabilities and limits of steel. It was during this time that she received her first major commission of a large outdoor piece for the private collection of the late, great actor Christopher Plummer. Bryna McCann spoke at length with both Plummer and his wife Elaine about their ideas for the piece, as well as where it would be located. Plummer’s initial inspiration was Raven and the First Men, a famous wood carving by Bill Reid. This became the starting point for many more conversations. The Plummers and McCann both agreed that the piece should have more levity than Reid’s sculpture, and they then discussed the symbolism of the raven. Bryna McCann worked up maquettes and the process evolved over several months. Raven was installed in 2017 in a field of fairy moss on the Plummers Connecticut estate.

Bryna McCann
Bryna McCann, Big Metal Beast Installation 2016
Photo by Chanda Mischevis

Bryna McCann continues to draw inspiration from David Smith’s immense body of work, using the human figure as a point of departure, reinterpreting and reimaging its form as Smith did throughout his career. Another area of intersection revolves around the idea of the totem, a tribal art form representing a group of people and values. Smith has explored ways of finding modern totemic forms, a line of inquiry that Bryna McCann continues to pursue.

Bryna McCann
Bryna McCann Raven 2017