Harris Fortier, sculpture extraordinairePublished 10:00pm Friday, July 4, 2014
Working in stone, bronze and wood, French-born sculptor S. Harris Fortier, now of Green Creek, “never dreamed to be an artist.” Rather, he said, “I wanted to be someone to help my brothers and sisters.”
From the time he carved a piece of chalk at the age of nine, through his first commissioned work at fourteen, and through the present, Fortier has used his hands and his mind to paint, sculpt, be a graphic designer, and yes, produce work that brings satisfaction and fulfillment to others.
“For some reason,” Said Fortier, “I became a professional sculptor.” Mostly self-taught, he has a degree in stone carving, and also, for a time, studied with a master. Studying under a master, Fortier notes, can lead to the master furthering his or her work and vision through his or her students. Fortier is more independent that that, instead, gleaning some of the best of different predecessors, but maintaining his own vision.
“The best sculpture for me,” Fortier said, “with expression, with compassion of the human being, is the end of the Gothic Period. My trade comes from the Middle Ages.” Since moving to Green Creek from southern California some six years ago, Fortier has continued being self-reliant to a degree that most people could hardly imagine.
Without the luxury of being able to hire out the work, and using mostly native trees and rock, plus recycled glass windows and tools of his own making or modification (and uncounted hours of physical labor), he’s nearing completion of a new, separate studio that combines rustic and classic into an inspiring work space.
As with most people who enjoy a degree of accomplishment, Fortier draws on a wealth of prior experience for nearly every task. He’s been a painter (“I was not a bad painter,” he said, “but I’m not the best painter.”), woodcarver, a sculptor in bronze, limestone, marble and granite, a graphic designer, and a believer in himself and the value of hard work.
That background helps him fell trees to accommodate (and constitute parts of) his new studio and provide material for works of art; to help him repurpose or redesign equipment to help move heavy logs or slabs of marble. It helps him make beautiful and functional granite counter tops for kitchens and bathrooms. His fireplace design and execution are both simple and elegant.
In Europe, and beyond, Fortier found recognition early. When he was just twenty-one a French television station made a movie about his sculpture. He designed and made the first poster for a Gillette (the shaving company) product– in fact, he made 2,000 of those, and placed them in bus shelters that the shelter manufacturer donated to a city in France.
In another venture, he helped restore a castle in France. In yet another, he worked for the Senate of the city of Bremen in German, which used one of his sculptures to represent the beginning of Europe. A one-time resident of Africa’s Ivory Coast, Fortier, in 1974, worked for Ivory Coast President Felix Houphouet Boigny. He’s been a city council member, the mayor of a small town in France.
At one time, in France, he supervised fifteen employees. Later, in California (where he lived for twenty-one years before moving to Polk County), he had a team of five people working for him. In southern California, he helped build mansions for movie stars, doing the stone carvings and other work.
Fortier has managed a limestone quarry in France, has worked in France, Germany and Belgium. His work also resides in Brazil and Africa. Closer to home, Fortier carved and donated A U.S. Flag that resides in the wall of the House of Flags Museum in Columbus.
Fortier has worked with Texas and Indiana limestone, and marble from Georgia. For carving, he prefers Italian and Colorado marble, and limestone from France (specifically from Burgundy) and Texas. “Instead of writing on paper, I write in stone.”
A storehouse of both boundless energy and funny stories, Fortier also enjoys kayaking, riding horses and flying. “I love to fly. As soon as you fly, you’re in another world. Though he’s never received a pilot’s license, he has flown planes himself.
Forteir lives a life of purpose.
“I work every day,” he said. “I study every day.” He remarked that while many people consider him greatly talented, the main ingredient is work, and lots of it. “The point is to work,” he reminds others. “You have to develop your own skill. I have so much to do in my life.”
Fortier can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.