The heartbreaking story of the sculptor behind that Melania Trump statue

A sculpture of US First Lady Melania Trump has been unveiled just outside her hometown of Sevnica, Slovenia and has been gaining traction online for the uniqueness.

The heartbreaking story of the sculptor behind that Melania Trump statue

A sculpture of US First Lady Melania Trump has been unveiled just outside her hometown of Sevnica, Slovenia and has been gaining traction online for the uniqueness.

The artwork was commissioned by Brad Downey and carved from a tree with a chainsaw by a local pipe layer called Ales 'Maxi' Zupevc. The artwork itself has garnered international attention, both positive and negative, leaving many wondering if the piece was a joke, and multiple media outlets calling it a 'tongue-in-cheek' piece.

But in a film documenting the construction and designing of the statue by Maxi, which was shared with us by Downey, the reality is far from comedic.

"I started working with wood as early as primary school," says Maxi, whose grandfather was a carpenter and called him Max after himself. "He wanted his name to pass on. Later, I started working for a carpenter. I'm self-taught, without formal education. I would see a gnarl and ideas came flowing in. I knew what I might make from it.

"I carved my first statue by memory. I kept looking at the gnarl and then took a chance at it. You stroll through the woods, see a root or something, 'I could do something with it'. It keeps you going on, this kind of job.

Speaking about the Melania project he was commissioned to do by Downey, he said: "The statue will have her eyes, the waving arm, and her legs will look even better. We had a big linden tree, almost as big as [the one used for the Melania statue], that was leaning over our house. My father said to my grandad not to cut it.

"I took it down myself, so it wouldn't fall on the house. Old people are stubborn but he gave in. As I wanted to cut the huge log into boards, I started to wonder. I googled it and found logs with owls. I printed out the photo, put it next to the log, turned on my chainsaw, and it was done in a jiffy.

"My father could hardly believe it. I started in the morning and finished in the afternoon. People came to see it from near and far. 'Can I take a picture?' 'Go ahead.' I donated the owl to our hunter's lodge."

Melania's statue was carved out of a tree overlooking the Sava River on the outskirts of Sevnica, which is Melania's hometown after a group of artists got in touch with Maxi.

Speaking about Melania, Maxi says she looks modest and he prefers her to husband Donald Trump.

"I don't know her personally, but she's my age," says Maxi, who was born in the same hospital in the same year as her. "All the more reason to make the statue, being born the same year, the same month. She might come and see the thing. She might like it."

Maxi works for the Graveks company, digging ditches for cables and waterworks: "I'm on stand-by during weekends and holidays, in case of emergency. It can be nice but sometimes you're up to your knees in mud. A breakdown means a lot of water. You must use the pump.

"You can lose your boots in the mud. Other times it can be quite nice. Sometimes you have to break down rocks. We lay down pipes for electric cables. We just dig and lay down the pipes. Pour concrete, if necessary and fill it up again.

"That's how it is. You've got to earn a living. I've worked just about everywhere. We come home on Fridays and return to work on Mondays. I just hate it when I must pack my bag again.

"The job is slow this time of year," he says. "We work, but not much. During summer, it's work all day long. I'm almost never free on a Saturday. Sometimes you even work on a Sunday. It's hard, it's hot and it's very busy. Autumn is ok, but in winter you can't really work, it's too cold."

"I drudge like a dog for peanuts," he adds. "Some people don't. That's how it is. I'd like a free weekend every now and then but I can't have one.

You must pay your bills, you must buy food. Work, work, work. When you go and have a beer, everybody sees that. When you work, nobody sees it.

"You drink in public, you work alone in the ditch. 'And you have money for beer?' That's the way it is. ive never done a statue of a whole human figure

"I'm pleased with myself, having done it," he says, referring to the statue. "As far as wood is concerned, it's in my little finger. At least, I think so. Nobody has criticized me yet. I think I don't exactly have two left hands.

"But during high season, you lack time to do what you want and during the low season, nobody calls. Then when you do work night and day, everybody needs something. You can't not go to work. And people must wait."

Maxi begins to get emotional in Downey's film, his voice wavering.

"So I f*****g slave all weekends and holidays for that. I'd give anything for a free Sunday. With my wife. Just one friggin' Sunday. I'd like it to calm down," he says, after a moment. "But I think you can be pleased. Isn't that so? Now you have me crying."

Picture are from Downey's film 'Melania'.

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