BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Ben Victor’s speciality is, in a sense, history. He immortalizes in bronze the icons of America’s past … names that appear in history books but also names that perhaps until recently have not been included. Now he is introducing us to a new name.
In Lincoln, Nebraska, on Monday — Indigenous Peoples’ Day — Victor, a Foothill High School graduate, unveiled a new bronze sculpture, commissioned by the state of Nebraska — Doctor Susan Le Flesche Pictotte, a member of the Omaha Tribe and the first Native American to earn a medical degree in the United States.
But Victor, who now lives in Idaho, isn’t taking a break. This summer he was commissioned by the state of Arkansas to craft a bronze of civil rights hero Daisy Bates. That will make four for Statuary Hall — unprecedented.
Victor became, at 26, the youngest sculptor to have his work displayed in the Capitol Rotunda when his bronze statue of Native American author and activist Sarah Winnamucca, commissioned by the state of Nevada, was unveiled in 2005.
In 2014 his sculpture of ground breaking agronomist Doctor Norman Borlaug, commissioned by the state of Iowa, was admitted to Statuary Hall. Victor’s third was Native American civil rights leader Chief Standing Bear, commissioned in 2019 also by the state of Nebraska. An identical version of Chief Standing Bear stands next to Doctor Le Flesche Pictotte in Lincoln.
Victor has dozens more around the country, in public squares, airports, museums and parks.
So why, you may ask, does Ben Victor not have a bronze statue in his home town of Bakersfield?
The answer – he will soon. On Thursday CSU Bakersfield will unveil a bronze, ornithologically accurate roadrunner — the university mascot — for the Hall Family Plaza outside the Icardo Center, and Victor will be there along with Lavonne Hall, the widow of the late Harvey Hall, four-term mayor of Bakersfield.
Statuary Hall has 100 statues, two for each state, and many states are in the process of replacing theirs to honor a more diverse array of Americans. Ben Victor can’t replace them all — but then he’s still only 42 years old.