Time has seemingly stopped in Jeff Hall’s art studio, a century-old tin-roof barn with turkeys and clucking hens dutifully standing sentry outside. His workshop sits near his rustic farmhouse, at the end of a crunchy gravel driveway reached by quiet country roads in rural Lovettsville, a peaceful hamlet in northern Loudoun County. Outside the barn’s doors, a 7-foot-tall statue of Martin Luther King Jr. beckons, welcoming guests to the creative cacophony inside.
Other recognizable likenesses gaze upon you as you enter: President Jimmy Carter, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Dan Quayle, actor Morgan Freeman. Hundreds of busts, small statues, and mythical creatures gather dust on high shelves. Scattered throughout are compelling abstract figures that delight the senses, peppering the dreamlike experience with creative abandon. Among the fantastic creations stand massive, white letters spelling H-O-P-E, the basis for an Inova Schar Cancer Institute project.
Hall’s sculptures have been described as timeless. He has worked on commissioned pieces displayed in the U.S. Capitol, the National Cathedral, the Clinton Presidential Library, and other renowned buildings. His bronze statue of King is featured outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Public Library in Aurora, Colorado.
“That sort of gift is very rare,” says Bülent Atalay, author, scientist, professor, and president of the DC-based Atatürk Society of America (ASA). The ASA commissioned Hall to create a bronze statue of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk for the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington. Unveiled in 2013, the statue of the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey stands in Embassy Row’s Sheridan Circle.
“Jeff got it exactly right,” Atalay says. “I see some genius in the way he can capture things so beautifully — he’s very gifted.”
Attention to Detail
Capturing the vision for a project, whether realistic or abstract, is Hall’s strength, and he thrives on the challenge of creating pieces that call for personal interpretation on the viewer’s part. A perfectionist, he leaves no stone unturned when researching a subject.
“If it’s a famous person, like [Martin Luther] King, there’s plenty of pictures, or videos — I’ve watched a lot of videos on his mannerisms,” Hall says.
He meets with subjects when he can. He sculpted Quayle’s bust, displayed in the Capitol, after the former vice president sat for him, for example, but never met face-to-face with Hillary Clinton when creating a bust of her for the Clinton Presidential Library. Soliciting input from people who know the subject well helps a lot when he can’t meet them in person, Hall says.
“You have to rely on people that knew him or studied that person, and hopefully they pick up on things you’ve missed,” Hall says. “If you’re really open to what they have to say, the piece will come out better with their input.”
For a commemorative statue of Belmont University’s now-retired president Bob Fisher and his wife, Judy — the Nashville, Tennessee, university’s “first lady” — Hall was scrupulous in his detail.
“He was sculpting two people who are alive and seeing the likeness of themselves,” says Nashville architect David Minnigan, who retained Hall for the project, which was unveiled in 2021. “It was very important that they liked their likeness and that he captured them in an inspirational way. It was an absolutely amazing process.”
Hall’s studio houses stacks of dusty poster boards with multiple photos of the Fishers, used as references so he could painstakingly refine every detail of the couple’s features, down to Judy’s hairstyle.
“He would not give up,” Minnigan says. “The finished product was everything, and captured these two people — every detail was just perfect.”
Diane Canney, founder of the Purcellville-based nonprofit Art of the Matter, retained Hall for a statue of Leesburg icon Stanley Caulkins when the business owner and World War II veteran died in 2018. The finished product on Leesburg’s King Street features Caulkins’ likeness sitting amiably on a bench, displaying symbols of his life’s work and legacy, including a pocket watch, a miniature airplane, and emblems of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Rotary Club.
“Jeff will put [in] his own little things that he just somehow works in, like the diamonds on Stanley’s tie,” says Canney. “He notices things no one else notices — it’s like he spends all his days and nights with his subject to bring that figure to life.”
A Life Full of Art
Hall was raised outside of Detroit. His stepfather taught him woodworking, and as a result, he spent five years after high school working in nearby industrial shops. As a self-taught airbrush artist, Hall paid for The Maryland Institute College of Art by painting show cars and motorcycles.
“I thought I’d be a book illustrator — that was my goal then,” he says, “but I was painting airbrush on hot rods and motorcycles, and so you’re painting in 3D, on those curved surfaces.”
Hall enjoyed taking figure and sculpture classes at MICA, but in the back of his mind, he kept dreaming of more large-scale projects.
“‘Wouldn’t it be great to do monuments?’” he says. “That was kind of an outside thought.”
He met his wife, Liz, a jewelry designer, at MICA, and the couple settled on their 30-acre Lovettsville farm in 1985. There, they raised their now-26-year-old daughter and built a horse-breeding business.
A Monumental Mentor
Hall’s career trajectory soared when he assisted Frederick Hart, a premier figure sculptor of the 20th century. Working with Hart for 11 years starting in the late 1980s, Hall honed his skills tremendously, building larger-than-life-sized figurative monuments.
“He seemed to like that I had that same soft style that he had,” Hall says.
The artists collaborated on bringing historic figures to life. Hall would spend his days at Hart’s Front Royal studio and bring assignments back to his own shop so they could each work alone and concentrate. Hall assisted Hart with numerous significant projects, including the “Richard B. Russell Memorial Statue” at the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill and the statue of President Jimmy Carter at the Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta.
Hart wrote about Hall’s sculpture talent: “[His] quality of work rivals any in history.” After Hart’s passing in 1999, Hall continued to work for the late sculptor’s estate until 2007, helping complete his final works.
“I think if he wasn’t a sculptor, he would have been a senator,” Hall says. “He was really good at selling himself and taking the initiative to go after things — I did learn that from him.”
Hall never stands still: While his wife designs award-winning wearable art, he has been extending his portfolio to include projects in bronze, bonded marble, Lucite, wood, and ceramic.
“Personally, I like the challenges — it’s why I go from one medium to the other,” he says. “You kind of get tired of working with one medium.”
For Hall, some projects are labors of love, taking decades to complete and sell. Pearl Diver, a sensual mermaid sculpture he began in 1991 and completed in 2001, is one of his favorites, skillfully blending bronze and Lucite. Hall’s vision was to create a sultry, smooth body with a warm patina against the blue Lucite water. Returning over the years to complete long-term projects like this one takes perseverance.
“That’s the hardest thing — to come back and feel energized,” Hall says.
Humility is a word often used to describe Hall’s approach.
“I know some awfully arrogant artists,” says Purcellville’s Canney. “Jeff has extensive, unique, extraordinary talents and has a tremendous sense of humility and dedication to his craft.”
Other clients agree.
“Jeff has humility and creativity all wrapped up into the same bundle,” says Minnigan.
For now, Hall remains committed to pouring his time and talents into projects small and large, challenging himself in new ways, and enjoying the freedom that comes with being an artist working in a 100-year-old barn in the country. His legacy, he says, has yet to be determined.
“You’d hope to have something that’s almost like a hit song … something significant,” Hall says. “I don’t know what that would be — what that will be.”