Somewhere in the neighborhoods of Venice, off the main roads and in a nondescript garage full of sculptures and statuettes, ceramic molds and odd bits of artistic experimentation, lies the center of the universe. Or it may as well be for the sculptor Geza Gaspar, deep in focus as he circles his latest project, hands darting in deliberate spurts to stretch and glom sinews of rich, dark wax to the wireframe skeleton before him. Already the muscular form of a horse emerges, charging full speed from nothingness with a rider atop its back, destined for the immortality of bronze. And Gaspar will continue until the job is done, layering, smoothing and sculpting the wax to the precision of his mind’s eye, pausing only for a moment to carve the features of both horse and rider with Promethean skill and speed, breathing delicate life into shapen form. He works quickly because the wax dries quickly. He works quickly because the idea compels him. He works quickly because he’s been here before and knows that he has so very far to go.

Back in Budapest, more than 20 years ago, he could take his time. He could devote himself first to clay, harvesting his materials from the earth itself and erecting monuments to creation upon the latticework of a fallen tree. He could build his own studio, with a kiln to harness the fire he needed. Time was plentiful and Gaspar’s obsession only expanded to fill the void. He learned the art of casting bronze, working the wax and molding the metal, eventually constructing a forge to accompany the kiln, bringing the entire process under his mastery and control. “It was the best and greatest challenge of my life,” the artist says now. He could work on a whim in every sense of the word, specializing in the human form. And his reputation built as news spread, among collectors and commissions, to look for Gaspar. He was particularly known for his marriage of metal and stone.

But all that changed in 2016, when the family moved to Bradenton and then Venice. It was a good move, for the wife’s career and the boys’ education, just not for an artist relying on reputation. Gone were the days of visiting collectors. No more public figures or museum curators knocking on the door, commissions and proposals in hand. The studio that was his sanctuary, and most of the tools that had been its saints, lay abandoned half a world away, replaced by a cramped garage workspace that he would share with a washer, a dryer and the family bicycles. From this foundation he would rebuild, bit by bit, with wire and wax and ceramic and bronze, the stature he’d lost.

That first year was far from easy, and Gaspar far from satisfied. He could deal with having few friends, and his English was improving, but his primary means of expression found little audience. Frustrated and impatient, he considered returning to Budapest many times, even going so far as to pack a bag and buy a plane ticket with a date that both he and his wife still remember, before ultimately changing his mind, unable to leave his family. And the shape of his new career slowly began to take form, first selling small ceramic statuettes at Art Center Manatee, then forging a relationship with Bronzart Foundry and showing large-scale metalwork in Galleria Silecchia. The commissions began to come back as well, with a gallery in Beverly Hills commissioning life-size statues of Eric Clapton, a triumphant Rocky Balboa and, fittingly enough, Don Quixote.

Closer to home, Gaspar was specifically requested to submit sculptural ideas for a pair of roundabouts being constructed in Tampa this year. His maquettes, one a cyclist in motion for a nearby park and the other a haunting homage to Riverview’s first recorded settler, Methodist Pastor Benjamin Moodie, his ghostly figure looming over the steepled form of the church he built, are under consideration now. Gaspar hopes to hear the good news soon, but has already begun the next project, each a stepping stone up a mountain he’s climbed before and knows he can again. “I will never give up,” he says. “Sculpting is my life. Sculpting is like air. It is the only way I can express myself.”