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‘Kennel of clay' takes shape inside Salt Lake art studio

By Jed Boal  |  Posted Jan 20th, 2012 @ 8:50pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah sculptor known for her portraits of veterans, law enforcement officers and celebrities now has a kennel in clay, of sorts, in her studio.

Lena Toritch is enjoying a wave of work on dog portraits, among them a dog that was famous in Italy a half century ago. Friday morning, she was touching up final details on the canine companion named Lampo.

"The most challenging part of a portrait is the eyes," Toritch said. "(He was a) small dog with a big heart."

Lampo, or "Little Lightning" in Italian, arrived with American sailors. He was adopted by a railroad station master and became known as the "traveling dog."

"He would hop the train and travel by himself. He always knew all of the station managers and folks on the train and always came back to a specific town, which is Campiglia," Toritch explained.

Lampo lived a life with many friends, tasty scraps of food and scratches behind the ears. But he also took it upon himself to walk the station manager's daughter home from school each day. "She was his little companion, and he felt that he needed to protect her," Toritch said.

There's even a book about Lampo. It recounts his adventures until his death in 1961.

An Australian saw a marble statue of Lampo in Italy and was so captivated by the story, so he commissioned Toritch to create a bronze one.

You may recognize Toritch's work from the Fallen Officer Memorial at the Utah State Capitol, or the statue of a fallen Iraq War soldier KSL News profiled last summer.

Right now, Young Fine Art Studio, at 967 Euclid Ave., is home to several dogs: Monty is an English setter who was a therapy dog in New York, a giant bull dog is a mascot for a California high school, and a Portuguese water dog completes the pack.

"Each time (I sculpt a dog), I want to show that compassion, that loyalty in their eyes. That's what I was trying to show in Lampo's statue," Toritch said. The dogs will all head to the foundry soon to be cast in bronze at the foundry. When he's complete, Lampo will be sent off to Sydney where the community can enjoy him.


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