Ralph Baney

Ralph Baney ( )

Ralph R. Baney, a sculptor and ceramic artist who taught at Dundalk Community College, died of an aortic aneurysm Jan. 21 at his Ellicott City home. He was 84.

Born in Trinidad, he was the son of Baney Seecharan and Bhagia Seecharan. After study at the Teachers' College in Trinidad and Tobago, he won a government scholarship to Brighton College of Art in England.

"He worked in the style of the British sculptors Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth," said Paul W. Glasgow, interim chair of the art and design department at what is now the Community College of Baltimore County.

"He has a huge body of work and was very successful as an artist. He sold most of his pieces outside Baltimore, and many are now in Trinidad. Until the day he passed away, he had a chisel in his hand."

While in England, Dr. Baney married Vera Parasram, a family friend who was also from Trinidad and Tobago.

After returning to Trinidad, Dr. Baney resumed working in clay, terra cotta and wood. He served as an art officer with the Trinidad and Tobago Government Ministry of Education from 1963 to 1971 and taught at Naparima Teachers' College.

In 1968, the couple attended a summer program at Alfred University in New York State.

"This program inspired them to venture out and study new things," said their son, Clarence Baney of Ellicott City.

They moved to College Park in 1971. Dr. Baney earned a master's degree in fine art from the University of Maryland, where he also received a doctorate in art education.

He began teaching at then-Dundalk Community College and occasionally taught courses at then-Catonsville Community College. He retired in 1999. He also built an Ellicott City home and separate studio to accommodate his oversized pieces.

"Ralph was a great human being. As a person, he was quiet, sensitive and measured in his interactions. He was careful in his presentations. He was exacting in his language, too," said Jim Paulsen, a retired Towson University faculty member and sculptor, who lives in Pikesville. "He was a fine teacher. In your life, you meet half a dozen people like him. You became a better person for knowing him."

Nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Baney met with other Baltimore artists at the John Steven Ltd. tavern in Fells Point. This became the nucleus of Baltimore Sculptors Inc., a group formed in 1983.

He exhibited his works locally at Creative Alliance and at Maryland Art Place.

"As a sculptor, he was a carver, primarily a woodcarver," said Mr. Paulsen. "He was not one to sit still. He was struggling to find new imagery throughout his life."

Dr. Baney was a part of the 1984 International Sculpture Symposium in Yugoslavia. He made an 8-foot sculpture from local marble in the Arandjelovac region now displayed at the Valjevo City Hall.

"He was quiet and strong and devoted to his art," said Benjamin Riniker, a family friend who lives in Ellicott City. "He had a weekly routine. He worked at the college, then spent part of the day at his own studio. He was still working on a commission the week he died."

In 2004, the National Museum of Art in Trinidad and Tobago mounted a retrospective show of his work. The University of the West Indies also awarded him an honorary doctorate "for his contribution to art made throughout his lifetime."

"His philosophy was that the wood would speak to the artist, telling him how to carve," his son said. "He did not fight the natural shape and grain structure of the wood. He felt very strongly that art was meant to be experienced not only by sight, but also by touch."

Dr. Baney completed commissions for a mural at the Scotia Bank in Trinidad. He created a national coat of arms for the Bank of Trinidad. He also designed a gold medal to mark the 40th anniversary of Trinidad and Tobago's independence.

His work is also in collections of the Embassy of Trinidad and Tobago in London, the University of the West Indies and Queen Elizabeth II's private collection.

He planted a vegetable garden each spring.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the First Presbyterian Church of Howard County, 9325 Presbyterian Circle in Columbia, where he was a member.

In addition to his son, he is survived by six brothers, Ramdeo Baney of Ontario, Canada, Narine Baney of Arbutus, Ashton Baney, Paul Baney of Maryland, Ethelbert Baney of Scarborough, Canada, and Sookdeo Baney of San Fernando, Trinidad; and a sister, Grace Ramdial of Ontario. His wife of nearly 50 years died in 2008.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com