The statue of Martha Hughes Cannon is coming to life in the studio of Utah County artist Ben Hammond. The full-size clay likeness stands at seven feet five inches tall and looks finished, but is still months away from completion.
“She’s the focal point of my studio, so I feel very close to her right now,” Hammond told 2News.
After the clay statue is finished, it’ll be used to produce a mold to make the final, bronze statue which will be installed in National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol this summer.
Hammond said at first he didn’t know a lot about Hughes Cannon, who is remembered for her accomplishments as the country’s first female state senator from Utah, a medical doctor, and her fierce advocacy for women’s suffrage.
The Martha Hughes Cannon Oversight Committee, which is tasked with fundraising for and getting the statue to the U.S. Capitol, asked him to create a statue that showed both her strength and humility — two qualities that are not easy to convey simultaneously.
So Hammond took a deep dive into her history to convey her essence in the sculpture. He met with her great granddaughters and photographed them to study their facial qualities.
Hammond also met with a designer from the costumer department at Brigham Young University to recreate an outfit in the style favored by Hughes Cannon.
“Martha Hughes Cannon was very interested in high style,” he said.
The result, so far, is a striking piece of art that says a lot about a woman who was a pioneer and an inspiration.
“What she did individually was amazing, but it (the statue) tells the story of a lot of other amazing women that established culture, education, and healthcare,” Hammond said.
The artist said it means the world to him that the family members of Hughes Cannon are happy with his work.
He hopes he has the approval of Hughes Cannon herself.
“I keep asking her: ‘Am I getting this right? Is this the way you really want to look?’ Hopefully, I’m doing a good job so she’s proud of it,” he said.