This past year I had the opportunity to work with the City of Greenville and the Art in Public Places Council to created a piece that would represent the cultural development in the city of Greenville, SC. Just as the city of Greenville grew from its mill village roots to become an artistic, cultural community Regenesis portrays the shaping of a new identity.
Concept Number 1 Concept Number 2 Concept Number 3
Revisions to concept number 3
This piece will be unveiled to the public in Spring 2011. I will be posting updates with photos of the progress to this piece.
My father and I did not create the panels in chronological order. We built them in order as follows; Vietnam, WWII, WWI, Korea, and finally the Persian Gulf. There are portions that I worked on alone, as well as portions he worked on alone. But most of the work was created together, side by side. The most exciting part of working on any piece of artwork is watching it come into reality as you progress.
The average time spent on a 7'x3' clay panel was 2-2.5 months. Though the sculpting process and attention to detail took a long time to complete, before we knew it we had five clay panels complete.
Once complete, we shipped the work to the Inferno Art Foundry in Union City, GA. There the casting would begin.
Each panel, consisting of wood, clay and paper, weighed about 500 lbs. Fortunately, the foundry had a forklift. No more lifting for me!!
The first step in the casting process is to paint the entire project with several layers of rubber. Every detail is captured by the rubber down to the artists finger print. Then a plaster cast is made on the outside of the rubber. Once dry the plaster is sawed into sections and the rubber is peeled off.
The clay that I use is an oil based, non-hardening plasteline. So, after the rubber mold is opened, the clay is removed, returned to me, cut into small pieces, and reused for future projects. The hollow mold is then put back together and filled with wax. This is what the wax cast looks like.
In Atlanta we approved the wax version of the final piece. The wax is then cover in a ceramic shell. The shell has vent holes at the top and bottom. The entire piece is heated and the wax melts and flows out of these holes, leaving the empty ceramic shell. The craftsmen at the Inferno heat bronze in a crucible to over 2000 degrees. The bronze is then poured back into the holes in the plaster shell.
The shell is cut away and out comes our bronze sculpture. The piece still requires welding at the seams and polishing in rough areas.
For the last step a patina is added. Patina is the tarnish that gives the bronze a certain color.
In 2008, The City of Hartsville, SC, the Black Creek arts council and the American Legion Post in Darlington commissioned the country's largest veteran's monument honoring all five major conflicts of the 20th century.
My father, also a painter/sculptor, and I worked for over a year on the project. The first step in the process of creating a work is research for conceptual drawings and design plans.
The next step was mapping out the look we wanted. We decided that relief sculpture would be the best vehicle for conveying the story and feeling desired for this particular monument. Instead of a soldier or two, fully in the round, who represent all servicemen and women, a panel of relief sculpture could include soldiers and from the army, air force, navy, coast guard, and marines from different time periods, as well as men, women, and people of all races. In addition to historical accuracy, one of our main objectives was to ensure that all those who served our country would feel represented in some way.
Drawings were then refined.
After the drawings were completed they were sent for approval from the clients. We also had many veterans look over the work to ensure accuracy. The vets were a great help and were able to give us lots of constructive criticism, examining every bullet and button. They also had many stories that we pulled details from to add color and emotion to the work.
One vet, who had served in Vietnam, noted that the original drawing incorrectly showed a soldier in Vietnam with his helmet buckled. He explained that while in the bush, soldiers would unbuckle their helmets. This was so that in the event that the soldier takes fire to the dome, the bullets would remove his helmet instead of the entire head.
After the drawings were approved and all changes were made, we had models photographed for the specific poses in our composition. We even did a little modeling ourselves.
We also gathered as many pieces of real gear as possible.
Finally, we began to sculpt. The drawings were blown up and traced onto framed wooden structures. To cut down on weight, the thickest portions of the panels were stuffed with newspaper. We then push in clay over the entire 7' x 3' sculpture. As we continued to add and subtract the clay, the piece began to take shape.