2010 - part 3
While in Texas last winter, I was constantly looking at the tall masonry side wall of my studio as a possible site for a sort-of wall-relief sculpture. I envisioned it as free standing yet shallow in depth and sited very close to the wall. A few years ago I proposed a public commission piece for a hospital site in Northern Ireland. While I did not get that project, I still liked my proposal. That piece however was on a different scale and gestured up to the right. This piece needed to go up to the left to work with the space. So I rebuilt the model, essentially reversing each element, getting rid of one, and rethinking the color scheme. (photo 1)The plan was to build it in Vermont and then get it back to Texas. This piece was inspired by observing flocks of birds taking flight. In Vermont, after cutting out the shapes and smoothing the edges, we formed them in my hydraulic press. If you look carefully at this image (photo 2) you will notice parallel lines marked on each shape with a stronger yellow line somewhere near the middle. Each element is made by incrementally bending the material to a given depth repeatedly along those lines. The yellow line is the one which establishes the exact angle, the end points of which define all the reference points. Each piece is bent to a different radius and because each is comprised of curved edges, without precise reference points, I would quickly become hopelessly lost. In other words, these twelve elements in a 3D space could have billions of possible outcomes. Only one outcome will render the design as originally conceived. So through a process of gridding the floor and dropping plumb lines, I measure from the end points of each reference line and relate those points to one another, slowly building the piece from the ground up adding each piece as I go. Of course each piece has to be rigged and picked up in a way that these dimensions come out right. The whole structure breaks into two bolt-together parts for transportation. For a bunch of reasons that I won't bother going into, I decided to buy a trailer so Sarah and I could drive it to Texas ourselves. Once I determined the size of the trailer needed, and how to handle the parts securely, safely, but minimally (to avoid damage), we went ahead with the sandblasting and painting. It is no secret that Texas can be an extreme environment for paint and because the work was going to be very close to a wall and thus hard to refinish, I wanted the paint to last as long as possible. To this end I decided to develop more film build and went to different primers and topcoats than I have been using. We then loaded the work and moved it outside until we were ready to head west. (photo 3)
We had a couple of weeks before leaving, so we launched into yet another piece. For a few years now I have imagined a work with somewhat random but flowing vertical elements clustered around a center space. Last winter I developed a model (photo 4) to answer this need. Once I had finished it, and only then, I saw striking resemblance to Matisse's marvelous painting "La Dance". Who can track the flow of ideas? When fabricating, it's always the random, most accidental looking shapes that are the most challenging to create. Many of the longitudinal bends could not be made in the press as normally configured, so I schemed a way to completely re-build it to accomplish them. (photo 5) We laid down some heavy plates on the floor to temporarily support the uprights and got a little way into it before we had to move all the equipment into the studio and close up shop. (photo 6) I guess I know what I will be doing when I get back!
I'm glad to report that everything rode perfectly on our sculpture hauling trip to Austin and we enjoyed a great many "what is it?" along the 2200 mile trail. (photo 7) Several friends showed up during the installation to lend a hand. (photo 8, photo 9, photo 10, photo 11, photo 12) I think this piece is perfect in color, shape, scale, and energy for the site.
Well, Jules, all in all a good season; lots of problems, some resolutions, some issues still to be sorted out - next spring.
Stay in touch, David
In this new section, "Letters to Jules", I share my thoughts through discussion and evaluation of my artistic endeavors each fabrication season. I hope these words and images give you further insight into my working process and concerns.
Typically, I spend from late May through October at my VT studio where I fabricate large scale works with the help of assistants. From November to May in Austin TX, I explore different materials, write proposals and develop concepts and models for future pieces.
I welcome your input, comments, and communications.
My letters to Jules...