Centerstage: Bob Presto
Written by Lori Boatfield
Photos by Michael Bradley
Bob Presto is an artist who makes his home in Huntsville. As a licensed attorney and homebuilder, his career has spanned many years and different job titles, including County Attorney for Escambia County, Ala.
What inspired you to become an artist, particularly a sculptor?
In all honesty, I’m not sure that I actually ever chose to try my hand at stone sculpting. One day, back in 1993, I just knew that I was somehow compelled to pursue it. It’s now a part of my life that I cannot abandon. My only wish is that I had accepted its challenge decades before I did so.
What is your stone of choice?
My stone of choice is limestone. Plain and simple. It’s harder than alabaster, but softer and more friendly than marble and granite. When it’s polished, you can see multitudes of fossiliferous life forms from whence it came to be. It has been chosen as a medium for the creation of works or art for millennia. It’s beautiful.”
You have a vision for a major project. Can you talk about that?
The ‘Saturn Project is a work that I am compelled to create. Somehow, it simply has to happen. I hope to bring it to the people of Huntsville in order to commemorate all that they have done, all that their forebears did, and all that my father accomplished in order to launch this city into space.
My father, Bob Presto, was instrumental in the Saturn Program and in much of what caused Huntsville to evolve into the Rocket City. I envision sculpting a large-scale Saturn V rocket. If I can find the proper rock face, I’d like to create an image that is 25′ long. I’d also like to sculpt a life-sized image of the Friendship 7 capsule which was manned by John Glenn. I’m also interested in creating a sculpture of the Artemis rocket or its capsule.
The beauty of all of this is that these images will endure for a very, very, very long time. Much of the stone in this area, along with much of the pertinent cliff face, is what I believe to be dolomite, which is harder than the limestone that was used throughout Egypt and other ancient sites. I want to create something that will cause people to remember Huntsville for thousands of years.
Obviously, this is a big undertaking, and I first have to convince all of the pertinent folks to allow me to do it. However, I absolutely know that I can bring the sculptures to reality. I just do. I’m sure it must sound crazy, but I feel like I was put here to make this happen. It will be a glory to God to display what He has allowed me to learn, and love.
It’s going to take a herculean effort to connect all of the dots concerning the Saturn Project, but I’m committed to taking the first step, which is working with Huntsville EVENT Magazine, Carolyn, and Todd Stephenson, both of whom have given me a wonderful opportunity to see if the Project can be pulled off. I owe them both a very significant debt of gratitude.
In addition to the Saturn Project, you envision another major set of sculptures. Tell about those.
I’m working on a project proposal relevant to the construction of what would be seen as a large stone sculpture installation either at the Ardmore welcome station (now currently under renovation) and/or somewhere within the Huntsville city limits. My concept for the project would involve perhaps six or more large vertical monolithic limestone slabs embedded into the earth and arranged in a semi-circle, somewhat like Stone Henge in the UK. The edges of each slab would be what we sometimes call “chip-faced” in order to convey a sense of rusticity, but the tops would be milled flat. On the tops of the stones, I would install slabs that bridge the gaps between each monolith, again, chip-faced to imitate an ancient look, further mimicking the Stone Henge monument. We are, after all, of one heritage, regardless of the continent from which we hail.
Upon each of the monoliths, I would carve iconic American space exploration images, such as, perhaps, a Saturn V rocket, the Artemis rocket, the Friendship 7 capsule, and the like . . . maybe even a prototype of some ship of which we not yet even dreamed. I’m thinking that in front of each monolith, a bronze plaque could explain each image, and provide credit to those who contributed to the success of each mission. It was in fact my daughter, Lauren, who suggested all of this as a project to pursue. She is a major inspiration to and for me, and her thoughts and ideas are always paramount. These stones will last for thousands of years. They will in fact far outlast anything constructed from steel and iron, and they will serve as a message to generations long yet to come that we were here, in our time, and that we thought of those who are yet to inhabit this earth.