Montgomery – Branko Medenica, of Yugoslavian and German descent, designed and created the cast bronze memorial sculpture, Duty Called, located on the south lawn of the State Capitol in Montgomery. Branko used an actual police officer in Birmingham (where his studio is located) as the model for his creation.
Duty Called was made to commemorate those police officers who were killed in the line of duty. “There was a statewide competition held,” Branko said. “A friend and I got the idea of an officer holding the hat of his partner who was killed in the line of duty.”
Branko Medenica was born in Germany, but left there with his parents when he was a year old. The family lived in New York, in Pittsburgh, and finally in Huntsville where his father, an engineer, worked with NASA. His father later got a job with Goddard Space Flight Center in Washington, D. C.
Branko attended Birmingham Southern for undergraduate work and completed his first degree in Business Administration. He wasn’t enthralled at all with the business world and read that “the majority of people only tolerated or disliked their jobs.” He remembered how he liked the arts and went on to Ole Miss to complete a Master’s in Fine Arts.
Medenica was just finishing up his graduate work when he was asked to join the Michigan Art Train. “I was a kind of wandering gypsy for seven months on this train. We made a five-state tour. The goal was to provide high quality art to smaller communities who wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to see it,” Branko said.
“I was hired in Birmingham after that and did several large-scale pieces there,” he continued. “I was working across the street from a McDonald’s one day. A guy who was eating there spotted me, admired my work, and offered me a job at his steel-fabricating plant.” He had to let me go in 1983 and I’ve worked at my studio in Birmingham ever since.” When asked about gallery work, he replied, “I try to do only commission work. The artist only sees half of the profits in the galleries.”
The Alabama sculptor is also known for his statue of Olympian Jesse Owens which is the centerpiece of the Jesse Owens Park and Museum near his birthplace of Oakville, Alabama.
Branko just completed a sculpture entitled Wings of Triumph at the Auburn University’s main campus Earlon and Betty McWhorter Center for Women’s Athletics. The statue represents all of Auburn’s female athletes; past, present, and future.
Medenica also recently finished a statue of Alabama Governor John Winston which is located at the Old Houston Jail, Winston County’s oldest civic building and the oldest jail in Alabama. The dedication for that memorial was held about a month ago. Currently Branko is working on a bust of a World War II Medal of Honor recipient for the Bessemer Courthouse.
For more information about Branko Medenica’s work, go to www.ltpro.com/branko/homepage.html
Article by Melissa Parker
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