Lou Golino published a great article November 21, 2019 on Chief Engraver Joseph Menna, his impact on the U.S. Mint and where he may take the Mint in the future. Here's an excerpt; be sure to read the complete article online.
On February 4, 2019, U.S. Mint Director David J. Ryder appointed Joseph Menna – a New Jersey-raised artist and sculptor with almost 35 years’ professional experience — as the 13th Chief Engraver of the United States Mint. His appointment filled an important gap at the top of the Mint’s engraving and sculpting staff. The position had been vacant since 2010 when John Mercanti retired from the Mint after having held the position since 2006. Mercanti is best known as creator of the current reverse of the American Silver Eagle that the Mint plans to discontinue at the end of 2020.
Historically, artists and sculptors like Mercanti who have held this important position have created some of the best and most important coin designs in the history of the Mint. Other notable examples include the last presidentially-appointed Chief Engraver, Elizabeth Jones, who designed the 1982 George Washington half dollar, and George T. Morgan – the British-born engraver and sculptor best known as the creator of the Morgan silver dollar who later served as Chief Engraver.
Menna has for many years been one of the world’s leading digital sculptors and was an early adopter of 3D printing. His work creating pop culture collectibles is very extensive, and he said in a March 19, 2012 interview in Action Figure Insider that the biggest cultural influences on this work include “comic books, Star Wars and Dr. Who”.
But he also brings to his work extensive classical art training, including drawing and sculpture. After graduating from the University of Fine Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and obtaining a master’s degree in the same field from the New York Academy of Art, he did post-graduate work in Russia at the Saint Petersburg Stieglitz Academy of Art and Design.
In Russia, Menna studied with Soviet-born artist Leonid Lehrman, who Menna described in a March 18, 2014, Philadelphia Inquirer article as “the guy who changed my life” and as his “Obi-Wan Kenobi”. He has also said that the artistic level of the art in Russia was superior to what was produced at the time in the West, where there was a lot of emphasis on abstract art.
Menna’s classical training and his use of digital technologies are complementary and reflected in both sides of his career. In his fandom-related work this enabled him to create works with incredibly detailed and lifelike details, while in coin development, whether a design is created with traditional plaster models or with computer software, all coin designs are later digitized so they can be refined.
To read the complete article, see:
The Coin Analyst: Chief Engraver Joseph Menna and the U.S. Mint’s Artistic Future
Wayne Homren, Editor
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