The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University will recognize artists Robert Kerr, Oliver “Tuts” Lawson, and David Turner with its 2018 Living Legend Award. The presentation will take place April 27, 2018, from 5-8 p.m. at the Ocean City Performing Arts Center in Ocean City, Maryland, following the Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival.
The award highlights those who have been long-time advocates for wildfowl art and the Ward Museum. Winners are generous in spirit and commitment to teaching others and passing on their knowledge, skills, and talents. They have created an impact on the field of wildfowl art and/or the Ward World Championship competition.
The 2018 Living Legends are:
Turner was born, raised, and currently resides on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. He looked over his father’s shoulder growing up, and thus he started sculpting when he was 6 years old. In 1983 he graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in biology and a minor in studio art.
Turner and his father, William H. Turner, own and manage Turner Sculpture in Onley, Virginia, which has served as their studio, bronze foundry, and gallery since 1983. Turner strives to capture the essence of the wildlife he sculpts. He has thousands of photographs that he has taken, natural history books and artifacts, reference castings, and preserved specimens that he uses to gather information about the subject of his next project.
Making a Turner sculpture using the “lost wax process” is an extensive process. It begins as a maquette or miniature model, then it is transformed into an oil-based clay model. Next, a rubber mold of the clay model is made to produce a wax replica, which is turned into a heat-resistant ceramic mold into which 2,000-degree molten bronze is poured.
Together with his father, Turner has created more than 173 publicly commissioned sculptures for places such as the National Zoo (Washington, D.C.), Brookgreen Gardens (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina), the Philadelphia Zoo, the Brookfield Zoo (Chicago), Benson Park (Loveland, Colorado), and the Salisbury Zoo (Salisbury, Maryland). David has multiple pieces installed in Ocean City, Maryland, as well as at Salisbury University and the Ward Museum.
Kerr was born in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, and began carving in the sixth grade; he primarily focused on carving miniature horses out of bars of ivory soap. He worked as a railroad fireman, stoking hand-fired coal engines for 18 years and carving on the side. He married his neighbor Mary and raised five children.
Kerr is one of the Smith Falls Famous Five, a group of carvers from the area who started carving around the same time in the 1950’s and ’60s and were consistently winning competitions at home and abroad. Before Kerr begins carving he starts by taking measurements of his subjects and working their figures into sketches and paintings. One collector of his miniature work challenged him to carve a pair of every duck, goose, and swan in the world. Kerr obliged, and this achievement is documented in the book Waterfowl of the World in Miniature by Robert Kerr and Tom Davis.
Over the course of his career, Kerr has had his work showcased in multiple shows and institutions, such as the Birds in Art show at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum and the Birds in Art traveling tour, which has been shown at the Smithsonian Institution Collection of Fine Arts. His work is also held by the Ward Museum and in numerous private collections.
Born in Crisfield, Maryland, Lawson began carving when he was only nine years old, shortly before he began his lifelong relationship with the Ward brothers. After a visit with the brothers, Lawson was constantly asking them for their opinions on his work. By the age of 12, his carving became a very serious hobby. By the age of 16, Lawson was entering his carvings into competitions. Today, he is one of the region’s best contemporary bird carvers. Lawson researches his art by watching birds in their natural habitats, extensively reading about the ecosystems which he recreates and he has even taken flowers apart to carefully study each petal. Lawson still lives in Crisfield, where he continues to impress audiences with his attention to detail and his passion for his art.Lawson’s work is highly sought after by collectors. His carvings are held at the Ward Museum and other institutions, as well as numerous private collections.
Advance tickets are required to attend the Living Legend Award dinner.  Tickets are available from January through April 17 at the museum’s website,
The Ward Museum strives to lead the way for advancing the understanding of wildfowl art and the interrelationships of art, nature, and culture. Through educational programs, exhibits, and events, the museum builds upon the legacy of Lem and Steve Ward to bring young and old to a greater understanding of the human relationship to the natural world. For more information, call 410-742-4988, ext. 120.