Monday, November 24, 2014

The Ascending Christ

"And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him.

When the architects at McMillian Pazdan and Smith first came to my dad to discuss the art that would be placed outside of the new St. Francis Cancer Treatment Center in Greenville SC, the idea was for a small to medium sized, semi abstracted, serviceable sculpture. Someone suggested the idea of a representation of Christ ascending into heaven. Immediately, my dad and I knew that small or serviceable would not do. Only the best we could possibly create would suffice.

As always, we started with concept drawings and sketches. We mapped out ideas and then took hundreds of photos as reference for anatomy and drapery. I had an idea to create robes that fall all the way to the ground. These robes could then serve as the support for the figure allowing the feet of Christ to be lifted off the ground as he rises into the air. After the drawings were completed a miniature maquette was made. 

To start the full size figure, we had to spend a few months of planning and engineering. Our good friend Bill Sykes helped engineer to armature. Because of the tremendous weight that comes with an 11ft clay sculpture, an armature was needed to prevent the piece from collapsing. A steel bar was installed from ceiling to floor in our studio. Steel pipes were put in place where the arms and legs would be. Next we glued pink insulation foam to the pipes. The foam gave the interior structure some body and some strength while adding very little additional weight to the final clay piece. The foam was then carved down to fit the desired form. 

To ensure accurate proportions, we put the clay on as a nude figure first. It is difficult to keep the various body parts proportional to one another when working in the large scale. How far is the distance between a man's heel and knee, if the man wears size 41 shoes?

The next step was to add clothes to the figure. Copper wire was added to some of the flowing drapes that would not be able to support their own weight otherwise. 
Photos, like the one below, that include my dad or myself, show how large this piece really is. 

Here I am working on the pierced feet of Christ. The steel frame was still visible at this point in the sculpting process. Once the clay was cast and bronzed, the steel bar was removed. The only thing holding the figure off the ground will be cloth, giving him the weightless feeling of the ascension.

One of my favorite views of the sculpture is from the rear. I was really pleased with how the billowy folds of his drapery turned out.

After the clay is complete, my main man Carl from the Inferno Art Foundry came to our studio to begin the casting. He first paints the entire sculpture in several layers of liquid rubber. Plaster is then added on top of the rubber. The rubber sinks into every detail and the plaster gives it additional strength. Once everything dried, Carl took apart the casts he made, loaded them in his van, and headed back to Atlanta. At the foundry, the casts are filled with molten wax. So, when the casts are again removed, we are left with an identical wax copy of the original sculpture. The wax is then covered in a heat resistant ceramic.

Here are some pictures of Jesus' head; in wax and covered with the ceramic.

The ceramics are made with vents and holes in them. This is so that when the pieces are heated and the wax melts again all of the wax can escape leaving a hollow ceramic shell. The vents are then reused as a funnel to pour molten bronze into the hollow ceramic.

Here is a section of the bronze, after the ceramic is sandblasted away.

Dad went to approve the final sculpture after all the bronze pieces had been welded back together. The patina color was also picked out on this visit.

A heavy duty crane was used to place the 3000+ lb sculpture of Christ into place. And Carl came back to handle the installation. In this picture Carl is drilling into the concrete base to create an attachment for the bronze.

While Carl handled the light work, I cut the plastic wrap off of the figure. Boy I was exhausted.

Finally, the piece was complete and installed. As we cleaned up the mess from the installation, a good friend of mine, who is currently battling cancer, walked up to The Cancer Treatment Center. She had just been reassigned to this new location. This woman, just younger than me, has been battling cancer for a few years now. But, despite her situation of pain and fear, she is just a ray of sunshine every time I see her. I was sooo happy to see her and it was fitting that it should be on this day. The purpose of The ascending Christ sculpture is to be a beacon of hope and a sign of inspiration for all those who enter the treatment center. All along, I had known this and I had imagined the faces of those who might be touched by our work. This day however, I was blessed to see one of those faces as she looked looked into the face of Christ, on her way to treatment. The entire experience was one I will never forget. The entire project has been the highlight of my career and a blessing to my life. Hopefully it will be blessing to many more.

"The Ascending Christ"

"And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”

Monday, November 17, 2014

Forest Lake Show

Earlier this week I had the honor and pleasure of showing some work at the Forest Lake Country Club in Columbia SC. The event was hosted by Raymond James, Eagle Investment Group, and Guggenheim Investments. As my first solo show in Columbia, the event was a great opportunity to show work in the midlands and was a very warm welcome for my my wife and I; who just moved to the area in July. 

I showed 30 pieces of recent work in the beautiful "Lake View Room" of the club.

Some small...

Some large.
Ruins, St. Matthews
Oil on Board
$4,000-5,500 (framed)

The event was well attended. I was pleased to see many new faces and a few old friends. 
Everyone shared food and drinks and had a fun evening. 
To view the entire show online, click HERE.