James “Bud” Bottoms was a native Californian who lived in Santa Barbara by the sea. His art education began at Jefferson Machamer School of Art in Santa Monica from 1947-48 and continued at the University of California-Santa Barbara from 1948-52. He worked for many years as an art director for GE’s think tank TEMPO, but in 1978 after a powerful dream he had of a woman embracing a dolphin, he was inspired to sculpt and to commit much of his time to marine mammal awareness and protection.
Much of his sculpture is of sea mammals inspired by his life-long love of snorkeling and diving off shore, but he often combined them with humans to express our essential inter-relationship. Bud's unique artistry captured their playful spirit in everlasting bronze. In particular, his admiration for the intelligence and beauty of dolphins and whales inspired his work.
Bud would often use his grandchildren and other family members as models frolicking with dolphins, sea lions, and turtles; they express the joy he would achieve in bronze. His fascination for and love of Earth’s creatures also led him to sculpt snails to condors, wherever he found beauty.
Bottoms first became a committed environmental activist in 1969, when Santa Barbara experienced a human-caused oil blowout which polluted the ocean and devastated the local beaches, killing sea birds and marine life. His commitment to this cause continued throughout his long life.
In addition to other Santa Barbara environmental protection projects, his love of marine mammals inspired him to become active with Earth Island Institute in the early ‘90s when it first established Save the Dolphins Project, which was created to protect dolphins from tuna netters.
Bud believed we must help protect and preserve the earth for its own sake and for future generations, and he won numerous awards in recognition of his art and his contributions to protecting the oceans. Paul Watson of Sea Shepard, Ric O’Barry of Earth Island Institute, the Greenpeace crew of The Rainbow Warrior, Jacques and his son Jon-Michel Cousteau, Mikhail Gorbachev of Green Cross International, and Ted Danson of American Oceans Campaign are recipients of Bottoms’ bronze dolphin sculptures.
Over the years, Bud donated numerous sculptures for the causes of ocean and sea life preservation, and natural habitat and wildlife preservation.
Bottoms is internationally known for his fountains
and monuments in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Toba
City, Japan; and Dingle, Ireland. Nationally, they can
be found in Los Angeles, at the Shriner’s Hospital
for Crippled Children; the Long Beach Aquarium;
Monterey Plaza Hotel; Malibu’s Michael Landon Park;
Oahu, Hawaii, and as Santa Barbara’s ocean-front
landmark. The Puerto Vallarta and Toba City sculptures were Santa Barbara Sister Cities projects and promote respect and understanding between cultures.
His smaller sculptures are found in galleries in
California, Mexico, Hawaii, and Florida.
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