by Brenda Robertson Dennis, reprinted, with permission, from Montgomery Living
Local sculptor Clydetta Fulmer is preserving moments, and sometimes the legacy of a lifetime, in bronze.
It could be a biased opinion, but for some reason it seems that the South continues to churn out artists of extraordinary skill and insight. It could be due in part to the glorious settings where they choose to create their masterpieces. Sometimes these places of inspiration appear to have been ripped from the pages of a classic Southern novel, complete with white sprawling porches, dripping tree moss and tiny cemeteries of unknown age resting lazily in a side yard.
This could certainly be the case for one Alabama sculpture artist by the name of Clydetta Fulmer who operates out of her studio in rural Montgomery County. The studio where she molds her subjects from clay is actually a historic building that was originally a church built by her great grandfather in 1916. Open the door, and you’ll find yourself gazing into the lifelike faces and scenes of a hundred stories, all told with a deep sense of appreciation and captured in single moments of time.
Clydetta Fulmer was born in Montgomery to a very talented family that clearly put faith in God first and education a close second.
Her father, Clyde E. Fulmer, preached for the Capitol Heights Church of Christ and Dr. Rex Allwin Turner, Sr. and his wife Opal Shipp Turner. later at the University Church of Christ located at Faulkner University. Her mother, Constance Renfro Fulmer, taught English at Alabama Christian Academy. Her sister Constance M. Fulmer, is the Associate Dean of Seaver College, Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, and her other sister Eunice Fulmer Wells, is a Technology/ Reference Librarian at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee.
Clydetta’s faith in God and her bond with family and friends is very much at the center of all that she does. She gives glory to God for anything that she creates and accomplishes. While many of her role models and inspirations, including her parents, have passed from this life, their influence is still at work in her.
“I enjoy their handiwork every day,” she said. “More important, the memories of their teachings and the examples of their lives are a constant source of wisdom, strength, encouragement and inspiration in my life and work.”
Clydetta was drawing as soon as she discovered the pencil. So when she attended Lipscomb University in Nashville, she naturally decided to study painting. It was when she took her first course in sculpture, however, that she had her “aha” moment. She found the medium of sculpture to be the most challenging for her.
“When you do a painting or a drawing, you do something from one angle,” she said. “With sculpture, it has to be viewed from every angle. So you have to comprehend the subject better.”
It was during a break from school and visiting her family in Montgomery that Clydetta received her first commissions for portrait sculptures from the founder of Alabama Christian Academy, Faulkner University and Amridge University, Dr. Rex A. Turner. These were her first works to be displayed publicly.
Since that time 39 years ago, she has been a freelance artist who has completed more than 100 commissioned sculptures, more than 40 of which have been public sculptures. She has also sculpted several statues for private homes and gardens.
Besides portrait busts and figures, she has also sculpted birds, animals and flowers as well as architectural embellishments, sundials and bronze benches.
In 2006 the sundial and four bronze Butterfly Benches she sculpted for the National Garden Clubs were installed at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C.
Her latest sculptures that can be seen in Montgomery are two life-sized bronze portrait figures of Dr. Rex Allwin Turner, Sr. and his wife Opal Shipp Turner. This work was commissioned by their son, the late Dr. Rex A. Turner Jr. for Amridge University on Taylor Road. Unfortunately, “Dr. Rex,” as he was known, did not live to see these statues completed in bronze, although he did see and approve them in clay. This sculpture portraying the Turners is very special to Clydetta because it was Dr. Turner who first recognized and encouraged her talent and career. Through this latest commission she was able to use that talent to honor and memorialize him and his wife.
In looking at the life and work of Clydetta, one could possibly say that they’ve tripped upon the secret of this Alabama artist. Clearly, her vision and creativity have grown from the inside out, lovingly nurtured by the ones who raised her and who taught her how to shine. As she stands on the porch of her old family church, it’s striking to realize that there is so much more that could be said about this artist. But for now, we’ll have to be satisfied with that one moment in time and look forward to more of her stories.
See for yourself. Some of Clydetta’s work can be seen in these public locations in the Montgomery area.
- The statue of Major Lemuel Purnell Montgomery for whom Montgomery County is named is at the entrance of the Montgomery County Courthouse.
- The life-sized bronze sculpture of Helen Keller as a Child Reading Braille is at the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped on Monticello Drive.
- The life-sized sculpture of St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland, was commissioned by St. Margaret’s Foundation. The hydrocal statue was originally located at the entrance of St. Margaret’s Hospital, and it is now in Oakwood Cemetery.
- The bronze plaque depicting Three Soldiers, commissioned by the United States Government, is at the entrance of the Veterans Hospital on Perry Hill Road.
- The three heroic bronze portrait busts of Joe Greer, Leonard Johnson and Rex Turner Sr. are mounted on a granite trihedron to form the Founders Memorial at Faulkner University.
- The bronze bust of Mary Jane Crump Brannon is at Huntingdon College.
- The portrait bust of James Faulkner is at Faulkner University.
- The portrait bust of Walter McKee is at the McKee School.
- The bronze plaque titled “The Joy of Reading” is at the entrance of the Pintlala Public Library
Photographs by Kris Kendrick