Reconnecting Brian Persha and “The Thinker”


Me, “The Thinker,” and Brian Persha

In the spring of 1965 I was looking for a wedding present for my brother when I bumped into Brain Persha in the student union at the University of Montana. Brian was completing his MFA in ceramics under the famous Rudy Autio. Brian said he had some pieces that might do the trick, so we went to his place to check them out.

I bought a piece called “Protocol Reversed” for my brother and his wife. It’s a lovely bronze about eight inches tall in the manner of Henry Moore. It shows a man kneeling before a woman — just the thing for a wedding present, I thought.

But the piece that really captured my heart was one called “The Thinker,” a seated male nude. The Thinker’s emaciated form reminds me of Alberto Giacometti statues, although it lacks that artist’s elongated limbs.

I recall commenting on Brian’s statue having no hands, and Brian telling me: “a thinker needs no hands.”

I spent my last money on “The Thinker.” I remember wondering if I had enough cash left to buy gas and get home. I then went back to Silver Star to spend the summer working on the family ranch. I gave Protocol to the newly weds and kept The Thinker for myself. I have treasured it now for more than 50 years.

When I heard that Brian was showing his work at the Eagle’s Club in Bozeman today, I couldn’t resist the temptation to reunite the statue with him. I walked up to where he was standing and said, “I have something to show you.”

He called me by name and said, “Yes, you do.”

He hefted the statue, inspected in from several angles and showed me his initial on its side. He then provided a detailed explanation of how it was cast in bronze from a wax model—an elaborate and delicate casting process that took hours.

Brian said he remembered the day I bought the statues well. He said my enthusiasm for his work and my willingness to pay for it gave him confidence to pursue a career as an artist. He’s made his living as a studio artist ever since. It’s flattering to think I had something to do with that.


P.S., My brother says he can’t locate “Protocol Reversed.” I do hope he finds it.

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