Eagle Spirit, 2007

Paul Buckner
(American, born 1933, died 2014)

Location: Washington High School, Tacoma


Artist Paul Buckner created Eagle Spirit for Washington High School in Tacoma, Western Washington. The life-size sculpture portrays the majestic birds that Buckner first saw and heard while serving on a U.S. Coast Guard buoy tender boat in southeast Alaska. It soars overhead and is "a real attention grabber."

This sculpture is one of Buckner’s most time-consuming artworks. After making pencils sketches and studies, Buckner modeled a two-foot wide eagle out of an oil-based clay. He made a mold and plaster cast of that eagle. He then used the model to build a steel armature on which to hang the metal. Using the intaglio method, he carved the negative form of different body parts such as the wings, head, and so on, into separate, full-sized wooden blocks (like a carved mold). Next, he laid a sheet of copper across the carvings and beat it down until the metal was flush up against every part of the wood. If his hammer work was too aggressive, splitting the copper, he started over.

On the plaque, Buckner included this line: "The straightest line from my eye to my imagination is the flight of an eagle."

You can learn more about the techniques used by Paul Buckner to create of this artwork in the two PDF documents linked under "Lesson Plans and Documents".

This artwork was acquired for the State Art Collection in partnership with Franklin Pierce School District.


Artist Paul Buckner (1933-2014) is remembered for his work in stone, metal, and wood. He said this about his work, “I have trained my whole life to be able to reach back to the forgotten things we are born knowing. Whether I will, in any measure, ever succeed, I don’t know. I do know that in making things I take great joy.”
Buckner was born and raised in the Ballard and West Seattle neighborhoods of Seattle. He was an influential and well-loved professor at the University of Oregon in Eugene from 1962 to 1995. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Washington, Seattle, in 1959. He received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Claremont Graduate School in California in 1961. He also served in the U.S. Coast Guard during the Korean War (1950-53).

Material CategorySculpture - other metals
MediumFormed copper sheet and gold leaf
Dimensions3 ft x 5 ft x 27 in
ID NumberWSAC2006.004.000
Acquisition MethodSite responsive commission
Artist LocationOregon, United States
Location Information
AgencyFranklin Pierce School District
Artwork LocationWashington High School
WA CountyPierce
Site TypePublic School
Address12420 Ainsworth Ave South
Tacoma, WA 98444
Geo. Coordinates47.144569, -122.456032
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