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"Sea Turtles I"

Bronze & Limestone
16"H x 12"W x 9"D
Artist's Proof (shown here)

limited edition bronze (of 30)
(each with a hand-carved stone base),
Kelly Borsheim

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[Bronze Sculpture]

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Bronze Sculpture by Kelly Borsheim


Sea Turtles have existed on Earth since before the age of the dinosaurs. They are a part of our past and remind us of another time. The life span of a (lucky) turtle can be as long as 80 years, although the majority of turtles die soon after hatching. Depending on the source, adult sea turtles reach sexual maturity between 10 and 25 years old. These gentle souls will travel hundreds, even thousands of miles, to breed and lay eggs on beaches away from their foraging (feeding) grounds.

Over several weeks during the mating season, a female turtle will lay several batches of about 100 eggs each. The eggs not eaten by animals (and men) will hatch in about 2 months. The sex of the sea turtle is determined by temperature. At 82 degrees F, all hatchlings are male. At 90 degrees F, all hatchlings are female (the women are hot). Born on beaches around the world, baby sea turtles are left alone by the parents to make a mad dash during the night to the open seas with hundreds of other vulnerable siblings. It is estimated that only 1 or 2 out of 100 hatchlings will survive the first year.

Most of their lives are spent in the ocean and sea turtles are well adapted to their water environment. Compared to their land counterparts, the shells of sea turtles are lighter and more streamlined. They have flippers for limbs, which make sea turtles efficient and graceful swimmers (as this bronze and stone sculpture depicts). Adult turtles tend to feed on sea grass and algae pastures.

Culturally Speaking . . .

  • In Hawaii, the green sea turtle is known as honu. Traditionally prized by fisherman, the honu is now kapu (protected) by federal law.
  • The Samoan word for sea turtle, I'a sa, translates literally to "sacred fish". According to Samoan folklore, sea turtles have the power to save fishermen who are lost at sea by bringing the fishermen safely to shore. Perhaps because they are considered sacred, sea turtles have traditionally been harvested by the Samoans for food and use in important dance ceremonies. Their shells were often made into fishing hooks, combs, bracelets and even a ceremonial headpiece worn by a Samoan princess.
  • Unfortunately, the sea turtle is also used as the feast animal in sacred ceremonies in Bali. For the ceremonies, hundreds of (some reports say 1,000) turtles are slaughtered each year.
  • Throughout the world there seems to be a similar idea of a bearer who holds the world up. One of these bearers is the "Mother Turtle". She represents the land, floating in a vast primal sea. The turtle is a sign of health and stability.
  • In Greek mythology, the sea turtle represented the feminine power of water and was the emblem of the goddess of love, Aphrodite.
(The above findings were researched via the Web and have not been fact-checked by this writer.)

All sea turtles are endangered. You can help them by not buying turtle meat or products made from turtle shells. Dispose of trash properly (much of our ocean life is killed by human garbage making its way to our oceans). Support an environmental group or research operation to help us gather more information about the lives of these gentle creatures and enforce laws to protect them. Another fun way to support all ocean life is to chose to travel/vacation in places that promote conservation of our natural wonders. But please respect the life you see while spending all of your money in these earth-friendly communities!

The Sculpture

I chose to use bronze for the turtles and kelp because that medium allows one to have thin parts that extend away from the center of the work in a way that stone and clay do not. I was hoping to portray flowing kelp and express the freedom that turtles must feel as they gracefully swim among the plant life in the ocean. For the base, I looked for a stone that suggested the ocean floor with a simple texture that would compliment the detail in the bodies of the turtles. Limestone seemed the perfect choice. Each piece in the edition of 30 will include a hand-carved limestone base.

Sea Turtles I took 1st place in the bronze category (and won the "People's Choice" award) at the Elisabet Ney Sculpture Conservatory's 11th Annual Student/Faculty 1997 Show in Austin, Texas. See how it was made.

Check out "Sea Turtles II."

Edition Owners:

Original: Artist's Proof, owned by Kelly Borsheim (Texas)
1/30: Private Collection (Florida)
2/30: Private Collection (California)
3/30: Private Collection (Texas)
4/30: Private Collection (Texas)
5/30: Private Collection (Florida)
6/30: Private Collection (Hawaii)

[Bronze sculpture]

[Bronze sculpture]

[Sea Turtles sculpture]


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Most recent revision: 1 March 2004