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Renowned sculptor Ralph Baney dies in US
Internationally acclaimed Trinidadian sculptor Ralph Baney died last Tuesday at his Maryland, USA home. The San Fernando-born Baney was 84 and had been ailing with a heart condition, his only son, Clarence Baney, told the Guardian yesterday. A grieving Clarence, 31, who was adopted by the Baneys, said he lost his mother Vera, Baney’s wife, almost five years ago. Vera Baney was a potter and was awarded a Hummingbird Medal and an honorary doctorate in T&T. “He had been ailing for some time and it was only a matter of time. But it’s hard,” Clarence said. He said he moved back from college to be with Baney and spent the last three and a half years with him. “We got very close after my mother died and did a lot together. “I have two dogs and he loved them and would walk them every morning. I used the garage door one morning after he died and the puppy ran out thinking it was my dad come to take him out. It was heartbreaking.”
Clarence, whose areas of study are mathematics and music, said Baney got to see him perform for the first time with the Washington Opera. He said they are Presbyterians and attended a nearby church together. Recalling his fondest time with Baney and his mother, Clarence said it happened whenever he was going through a difficult time and needed assurance of their love for him. “They knew exactly what I needed to hear. I needed to hear them tell me how much I meant to them. I would not say they had a rehearsed speech but they used the same words every time.” Reminiscing about his father’s work, he recalled Baney recently took a section of a tree log and turned it into a coffee table. “He left all the hues and curves intact. It’s really quite beautiful.”
Baney worked from a studio in the yard of their home. Clarence said the First Presbyterian Church of Howard County, which they attended, was helping with funeral arrangements. A memorial service for Baney will be held on February 8 at 2 pm at the church. Clarence said the family was also planning a memorial service for him in Trinidad. He requested that, instead of flowers, donations should be made to the Vera Baney Memorial Fund to help a student at Naparima Girls’ High School with her expenses. Ralph’s brother, Sookdeo Baney, a media photographer, expressed shock at the passing of his brother Sookdeo said a caller from one of the media houses first alerted him to his brother’s passing. He said he last saw and spoke to his brother, several years ago, during one of his visits to Trinidad. “He may have come and stopped by after, but due to the nature of my job, I was never at home. “I am very sorry to hear of his passing, he made us all proud, Sookdeo said, recalling his brother’s passion for art.
Tributes from T&T
Art dealer Geoffrey MacLean said Baney was a very accomplished sculptor in T&T at a time when there were very few of his calibre and sculpture was not one of the more popular artforms. “It was unfortunate he wasn’t better recognised in T&T.” Sculptor Hetty de Gannes recalled she did pottery classes with Baney at one time and met him at a sculpture conference in Canada. “The last time I saw him was in San Fernando, when we both got awards from the city. I liked his work.” De Gannes said sculpture was a very lonely artform in T&T.
About Ralph Baney
• Ralph Baney studied at Brighton College of Art, England, and the University of Maryland
• Worked as an art officer with the Ministry of Education from 1963 to 1971, teaching at Naparima Teachers’ College and other schools in the South
• Taught at the Dundalk Community College in Baltimore, while continuing to create works of art in wood and stone
• Most publicly visible works in Trinidad are a four-by-20-foot mural at the Scotia Centre in Port-of-Spain, an eight-by-ten-foot reinforced concrete coat of arms of T&T at the Treasury Building and a fiberglass fountain at the Naparima Bowl in San Fernando
• Created an eight-foot marble sculpture which was permanently mounted outside the city hall in Valjevo, Serbia.