View Full Version : American Athena
12-06-2003, 06:53 PM
This piece is called American Athena.
I’ve updated her with modern garb which includes a bling-bling necklace for an identifying attribute.
It’s in plastilina right now, thought my ambition is to cast it in bronze. It’s 11 inches high and 7 inches across which is slightly smaller than life size.
A good webpage with lots of information about the cult of Athena, including an interesting article comparing her to the Christian Virgin Mary can be found at http://www.goddess-athena.org
12-08-2003, 06:33 PM
Very nice piece. I'm curious about the decision to leave the eyeballs "blank". I believe this convention derives from stone carving. (And I guess most Athenas have been stone, so it adds to the ancient quality of the piece .) In most bronzes - portraits, etc., the usual thing is to make some kind of a concavity, which visually approximates the pupil. Sometimes a geometric shape is made there, to approximate a "twinkle" in the eye. That was done on Mt. Rushmore, for instance, with remarkable effect; and I've read that the actual shape used there was hit upon by the workmen, not the sculptor. Anyway, it'd make a big impact on this piece if you did it other than the way you did it, so I'm wondering what comment you might have on that.
12-08-2003, 07:55 PM
Nice piece. I find the neck muscle (sternocladomastoid) a bit masculine at the rear, but this may fit with your conception of her as a warrior goddess. The profile is beautiful. Keep us informed.
12-11-2003, 07:38 AM
Ancient bronzes usually had inserts of another material for the eyes, for example precious metal or stone. The convention is most robust today in toy dolls and mannequins, though I have seen some contemporary artists use this technique.
Ancient Greek stone figures were often painted, and chances are good that the eyes were painted in to mimic nature.
The convention of adding color by creating a shadow where there is none in nature is a Renaissance invention. Itís very effective and has been used successfully in both carving and casting to give a life like immediacy to the subject. Critics of past generations may have complained that this technique ruins the purity of the representation by adding artifice, but I like it.
The contemporary revival of inserts has disappointed me. In every case I have seen the artist used pre-manufactured eyes, such as doll eyes or prostheses. The final result is jarring. The shiny perfection of the foreign inserts clash with what the hand of the artist produced revealing the sharply divergent intent of the artist and whoever made the eyes. Itís like using coal for eyes in a snowman. I think that in order for inserts to be convincing they would probably have to be coeval with the work and produced by the same hand. That would create a certain unity. The renaissance shadow technique meets these criteria. If anyone has seen a contemporary example of a successful use of inserts in a representational piece, please post it.
My piece is a Greek goddess, so I wanted to create a serene and emotionally remote demeanor to put her at a distance, appropriate for a goddess. My experiment has been to flatten the eyeball at the location of the iris. The flat parts reflect light differently from the whites and in some conditions the iris glows. Iím hoping this effect will be accentuated in shiny metal, but itís currently impossible to photograph in matte clay. It might ultimately be too ambiguous or subtle to be effective.
I appreciate the comment about the neck, and I donít think a hint of androgyny hurts this piece. You might be interested to know how I arrived at it. I had the most wonderful model to work with. Her strong jaw line, cheek bones and classical profile are breathtaking in person, but her feminine neck didnít seem husky enough to hold it all up, so I padded it. Itís an idealization.
12-11-2003, 01:11 PM
Thanks for a great answer. I had the feeling you had put some thought into the eyes of your piece. I have also read that the Greek marbles were originally painted, and I guess some have been recovered in that state to prove it, though I personally still have a hard time imagining the Elgin marbles and other great works from the first chapters in Jansson's History of Art with anything other than those egg-like eyeballs. I think we've come to ascribe a value to the "marble-ness" of those works that most of their contemporaries didn't share or never saw. Your piece uses all that to sort of say, "I'm not only a god, I'm a sculpture of a god". Good choice.
12-12-2003, 08:19 PM
Good reply on my comments as well. The day after I posted that, I looked again at a piece I did of a very pretty, somewhat classical, and quite athletic model about ten years ago, for comparison. As I thought, her neck is not so deeply cut toward the rear. All the same, as you say, the artist needs to consider the whole picture and the overall goal. The piece is fine.
On jwebbís remarks about painted Greek marbles, I have seen pictures of some which show traces of red and blue paint on the clothing. I havenít seen flesh toned paint on bodies or appropriate eye colors there, but those also may be known to experts. Supposedly the 30 foot or so Athena in the Parthenon was made of wood with ivory skin, and with a means of attaching the Athenian treasury of gold as her clothing when it wasnít needed elsewhere.
vBulletin® v3.6.8, Copyright ©2000-2013, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.