New Mexican Sculptor

My photo
New Mexico, United States
I'm living in New Mexico where I sculpt and paint. After a long absence from art, I am now creating smaller bronze figures. This blog is mainly devoted to that work.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

WIP-- "Swimmer #1"

How does an artist begin a new piece? Of course I cannot speak for everyone, but the way I seem to do it,specifically in the realm of sculpture, is to think about changes I would like to make to the previous piece, and bring those thoughts or ideas forward into the new piece. In other words, like cellular division, work begets other work. So, in a way, working creates new work. This present piece actually was born when I was doing the second horse, not the Birdman. At that time, I considered a group of upwardly swimming horses (a larger project which I will most likely begin at some point). I love those artists who create images of dancers or gymnasts, and yet, I think the form is basically "owned" these days by Robert MacDonald and other magnificent sculptors. I considered an underwater scenario then, and looked around to see if someone does a lot of swimming figures. Truth be told, I know very little about dancing or gymnastics. I have never been very athletic. I do know swimming. I used to live in a swimming pool in the summers when I was young. I envision this sculpture to include some fishes sea creatures at some point. I am thinking of her in terms of "Drowned Ophelia." This is another new twist in my art: the use of fantasy and dreams. I think you will like what is to come next. I do not want to give too much of this image away too soon.

Here are a few views of the new sculpture after about 30 hours of work, not including making the armature. You might recognize the armature from one of my earlier posts.



Now, of course, Ophelia has a large amount of wonderful art works devoted to her. My favorite is the one by John Everett Millais. I also wanted to show the figure from a non-sexualized view point, and also one of semi-autobiographical interest. As a girl who suffered depression, abuse and also had Asperger's syndrome (which was not a thing anyone recognized when I was growing up), I tend to want to show where that space of total immersion is for myself-- what it feels like to merge into the elements.

I will be dropping in a few more posts of this sculpture in process.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Leaving The Safety Zone

Learning is about leaving your realm of personal safety and moving forward into unknown territory. Art is an ideal forum for public vulnerability and exposure. A lot of people do not understand the essence of this vulnerability, this exposure when they ask questions like "what does it mean?"

To be willing and able to produce something that closely echoes the inner drama and then to actually show it to people is hard on the ego. It is humbling to expose one's greatest flaws to any old stranger who browses a gallery. Most people simply avoid such questions, such talk. Certainly some of these artworks are a bit like airing one's dirty laundry. Fear makes artists contract into the safety zone. Fear also makes art buyers avoid "controversial" images.

It is funny, but at my last gallery, there were typical paintings of forests, animals, villages, streams. They were specifically designed as nostalgic, safe, innocuous painting made to order for people who feared anything thought provoking, or meaningful on their walls. They weren't even meant to be looked at. They were there to establish a "vibe" in decorator's terms.

Sales in such safe images is probably better than sales in controversial or unusual subjects. In these hard, economic times, I wonder if artists produce work relating more to the nostalgic or false memory of the culture. During the great depression of the 1930's Hollywood made many pleasant, sunny films and colorful fantasy extravaganzas to give hope, and respite to a struggling populace. The recent recession is far from touching everyone. There are people out there who have not lost it all, home, savings, job, and identity.

I count myself among those who had to re-make myself from the ground up, and I would like to begin to write about that progression in this blog. It will be a bit more personal, and of course, expose me in ways that I have been suppressing.

My first entry will be this:

I am truly grateful for being "let go" from my job of 10 years. That was in 2008. It was a soul sucking, horrible job. In the meantime the business has been sold, and they have been forced to eat crow publicly for their wicked ways, so I have had my chuckles over their problems. When I was let go, I was thrown into a growing recession at the age (then) of 48. I stood little to no chance of ever getting a reasonably paying job again. I went underground, finding housing in substandard but steady conditions. Finding food in food lines, and minimum wage jobs where the life of a person meant little.

And through that challenging time, I made several "paradigm shifts" in my thinking. For one, if you had asked me, back when I was a teenager, or in my 20's what was the worst thing that could happen to a person, I would have said, "poverty." Poverty was, to me, a worse state than war or famine. I did everything I could to deflect it. I went to college for nearly seven years trying to accumulate experience. I learned as much as I could, and worked every day from the time I was a teenager, but in the end it came anyway.

My fear came to me, because I needed it. I had become a magnet, attracting my worst fear to me. I had become that character from the early century, "Bre'r Rabbit." I'll do anything, but don't make me poor.

This connects with my first great paradigm shift. No, I do not espouse poverty as a lifestyle. It is horrible. I have gone months in the dead of winter with no heat in my house. I have had to beg for food and accept hand-outs from well meaning strangers. No one, in this land of plenty and opportunity, ought to be poor.

What I learned is that what I once thought of as important is absolutely the opposite. The big house, the nice clothes, the dinners out, or vacations, are no longer attractive to me. I no longer think much about waste, or conspicuous consumption. I live a life with a smaller footprint, and it has afforded me the ability to work on my art more. In fact, my life is more about art than it ever was.

My motto now is to work less. Live in a smaller place. Spend more time enjoying life. I still have jobs, but they do not consume me, and I do not expect the job to somehow take care of me. Jobs are my tools, I am not a tool of the job. I am not in someone else's house, this is my house.In a sense, I feel that I have taken a Buddhist's journey. Suffering, and then finding the path to alleviate the suffering, and then coming to the one great truth that none of this actually matters. It is just the thing we do between birth and death. None of it is actually compulsory. You may exit the highway at any time, and walk on another road.

Now those other paradigm shifts? Some of them are still in the making. I know that my artwork is more important to me now because instead of giving thirty years of my life to some business, they are my "end result." I won't be the old janitor who retires at 75 and dies a week later, because I have taken myself off that path.

If you look far enough ahead, you can actually see the landmarks of the diversions, and the obstructions that keep you from progressing to your full potential. Yes, sometimes they are hidden, but at other times, they are as clear as day.  When that exit sign comes up sometimes it is too late to take another exit, but along the way, you can still make it to another road, if you have willingness, faith, and courage.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Bird Man's First Wax

Let's see what wax looks like in this mold. The clay has been removed for recycling, and the silicon rubber has had a bit of time in the open air. Now it is time to pull a "clean-out" wax. This first pull has multiple uses. First, I will be able to find out if my mold is "water-tight." There is nothing more maddening than a hole or gap in a mold. Such a mold simply does not contain wax, and thus is pretty useless without massive repair. Second, I will also be able to see areas that need touch up in the final wax. No wax is perfect. Waxes must be "chased" which is a foundry term for "cleaned up." Finally the last use, to determine the final cost of the actual pour. This is usually about 10 times the weight of the bronze, times the amount of money the foundry charges by the hour. Add then any other services you are asking for, like welding, finishing, patination. Bronze can cost a lot when you use a full service foundry. The more you can do yourself, the less it will cost you in the long run. Many foundries will try to sell you a package, but you can also ask for one or two things. They are always glad to take your money. A few hours before starting I have placed a block of wax into a slow cooker to melt. The wax I am using is "waste wax that has both wax and some clay in it. It is junk and not good enough to send to the foundry, but it is still useful for certain applications. After I pour or brush a nice top layer directly on the silicon, I can turn the heat on the slow cooker full of wax either down, or off to create more of a gel-like but still brushable wax. I will use this to build up. I try to get the thickness of the wax up to at least 3/4ths of an inch. Photobucket I've placed the mold and wax into the freezer to (hopefully) speed up the curing time. I'll check on it in about a half an hour. A little segue here. I do not make molds or bronzes professionally. I am sure if I did, I would not be able to procrastinate as much as I do. While there are setting times, it really should not take be three months to make a mold. One or two weeks should be sufficient. The results: Fair but not perfect. The bunji cords were squeezing the piece too much and so the opposite walls pinched into each other. So I have to do away with the bunji cords and probably try this with lag bolts. Also the top edge was not fitting exactly. this could be offset from the squeezing effect. I won't even go into the rotten state of the wax. It is too soft, and it also has way too many air bubbles in it.The way I fixed this before was to add some expensive red (hard) wax into the micro crystalline brown wax. Photobucket Not great! Try again! I am sure you understand what I mean here. You need to test, and perfect the mold before you can pull out a perfect wax.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Combination Mold --- Bird Man (Part 2)

I continued making the mold over the major body parts, and then finally, made the mold on the wing area. My idea was to make the wing area the large "hatch" needed to pour wax. I've decided after working on the horses that it is better to pour the wax into a complete mold when possible because of the potential for warping.

Below is a side view of the second side before applying plaster, so you can see that you can place wood supports in the plaster. Here, the wood supports create a table leg effect.


After finishing all sides of the sculpture, I was now ready to make the wing molds. I placed bamboo skewers at areas within the wing to indicate how thick my silicon rubber was. The shim was simply clay rolled with a rolling pin, and placed under the "feathers."


Finally, the work was done and I was able to take the entire work outside. This was not really important, but I wanted to work out in the sun and it was a lovely day. I carried the whole thing, sculpture, mold, and plaster up the stairs. It weighed about 45 pounds.

Once outside, I used some table knives, and a mallet to break the mold free. When I say "break" I don't mean "destroy." I used the mallet to tap the mold at various places. This let a bit of air under the plaster. To understand that is to think in terms of physics. The entire mold is simply held on by surface tension. By moving it slightly to allow air to get under the mold, you are freeing it. This is similar to tapping on a tight bottle cap to open it.

I had one part of the mold crack a bit. One of the reasons to use the burlap in the plaster is to keep any cracks from shattering the plaster. It all remains together like safety glass. I was then able to fix the cracks using a layer of bondo.

All off, here are some parts of the mold.


Finally, what remains afterward is to recycle any clay that can be used again. In the case of plastalina that can be a lot. Usually, all you need to do is melt the clay and "sieve" the liquid clay through a screen to take out any pieces of "garbage." Usually when the clay is too dirty to use, you can see it.

The end result of sculpture (lost wax style). The sculpture is, of course, scrap. There is an interesting life-cycle of building and destruction, but all so that you can have a finished bronze in the end.

Right now, I do not plan to immediately cast this piece. It is rather large. One benefit from making molds is that you can put your sculpture in a box, to store for later.

End result for all this work? Sculpture in a trash can.