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Old 12-24-2004, 10:50 AM
dwright dwright is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
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Re: Rationales or justifications for sculpture

The 'Words of Art' glossary is cool, but it didn't have the term "facile artist", which is one I had questions about the way it was used. Obviously, facile means skillfully or easily done, but a second definition in Websters cites "superficial" as well.
When asked if painting was hard, Whistler replied "It's either easy, or it's impossible".
It's easy for me to create what I want in wax or clay, and I have a pretty good idea of what the finished product in bronze will look like, but it's a facility that I have acquired over years of constant work and practice.
The medium has its limits, but I have long since either become accustomed to them, or have overcome them in my way, so that the limitations become mere background noise as I pursue the vision. So, in a way, the medium has placed a stamp upon my work simply by being the medium. But I place my stamp upon the medium by being the artist, in a complicated sort of dance.
Technical note:
H, keep your eyes open for various sized crockpots, turkey roasters, etc, that you can pick up cheap. Throw away the ceramic or porcelain coated inner pots, and use them for heating wax. When in the midst of it, my studio is a veritable cauldron, with multiple pots of wax either heating or cooling, to be poured, painted, spatulaed, or molded by hand, as the need strikes. Tape heavy plastic on the floor.
As for working everything out in my head, no matter how well thought out or sketched in advance, the sculpture always imposes its own nature in three dimensions. I use the drawings to keep my initial concept clear, but allow the sculpture to flow into being.
Recently I made one sculpture in four different sizes. Starting with a 6" model (wax with no armature, now that I think of it), I scaled up to 14", 36", and then 8'. A mathematical scale up didn't work for me, as I quickly realized that each size brought it's own perspective and detailing problems. In the end? Four recognizably similar sculptures, but each one different in perceptible ways, that I felt actually made them more alike to a viewer.
How did I justify the changes? They simply looked right to me. No hard fought rationalizations or analysis.
An early commission to create a sculpture based on the latest theories of hemispheric brain dominance required much advance study. I read Julian Jaynes 'The Origin of Conciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind', as well as 'Left Brain, Right brain' (author temporarily forgotten), and these, among others, have had a lasting influence over my approach to sculpture, which is very Zen.
Possibly the difference in outlooks is simply that of a newcomer to the art as opposed to experience, but also the academic environment is designed to foster questions, even to the very roots of established principles.
But it's really the journey that matters, and which will direct you to your eventual conclusions. This has been an excellent dialogue, and you should print a hardcopy and save it. Reread it in about 25 years, and see your roots.
Okay, other things calling. Gotta go.
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Old 12-31-2004, 09:16 AM
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obseq obseq is offline
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Re: Rationales or justifications for sculpture


I lost your reply in the fray, and never got a chance to find it until now.

My point, specifically, is that sculpture doesn't readily foster impulse(s) as with other disciplines; grabbing a paintbrush or loading a camera--contending with a given sculptural material requires a precise committment. We cannot readily bypass details like gravity, so sculpting itself, requires exhalations not from physical exhaustion(sculpting) but from careful deliberation, forethought, and oftentimes frustration before any actual physical work is completed.

It just seems that a lot of modern sculpture displays a lack of forethought--I think the advent of certain technologies allow for a bit too much of an intellectual crutch in creating modern sculpture, and this is why I particularly admired your vehement stance on attempting an armature(less) piece.

Forgive any lack of clarity--I just finished a 14 hour work night and am spent to say the least, but wanted to respond to your question.

"obseq, not sure what you mean by: "the (practicing) artist can be equally guilty of wasted motion. This becomes especially evident in sculpture where committing oneself to a given material (should) betray expedience."

I'm guessing by wasted motion you mean working in a thoughtless and haphazhard manner, or placing an emphasis on production rather than on the quality and consequence of the work. But I don't understand the comment about betraying expedience--is there a missing word or am I just incapable of reading this evening [the latter may well be possible tonite!].

[i think thinking is important, of course--this should be clear in my posts; the situation isn't clean really, in any way... obviously i place great value in both action and theory. but theory only so far as it has consequence in action or in self knowledge. and, frankly--i just get frustrated at myself becuase i've spent a lot more time in life understanding than i have making complete and full things that manifest that understanding.]

[anyhow your words sounded very specific and i wanted to undrestand them]."
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Old 01-01-2005, 04:36 PM
hpatenaude hpatenaude is offline
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Location: New York
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Re: Rationales or justifications for sculpture


thanks for rendering explicit what you had said previously. i think it's sort of odd the way this era is w/r/t the arts (and for that sake, most everything). we're both too impulsive and too, how should i say it bet, conceptual? both thinking and being spontaneous are good for art, when the thinking is real thinking and the spontaneity is real and directed inspiration, not chance or randomness. so i agree with you, that there's not enough thought put into sculpture these days (the proof is in the mediocre compositions, independent of how the materials are handled; even rodin's seemingly spontaneous and undiliberated works often are superbly composed, and obviously a lot of thought was put into it--which is precisely why his gestural handling of hte material seems to be applied as some sort of stylization, not as part of the process always)...

but i also think there's not enough action in them either sometimes (the proof here is in how the materials are handled as well)...

i think you're right to place some blame on technological crutches--these don't influence us, they aren't big scary hands messing up the world [a lot of people make Technology out to be a sentient being controlling society], but they allow those who haven't the patience for something to enter into a previously un-enterable field through the use of, say, pneumatic tools... and the armature just may be one of these. plastalina may be one too. expedients are wonderful, don't get me wrong, but not when we don't maintain high discipline and thoughtfulness, not when they make us hasty.

so, in other words, i think you've hit on something that may be a more pragmatic (where pragmastism is what's aimed at human action and what has to do with how we act) and less metaphysical (than my original argument of purity) argument against the armature. the patient waiting of terra cotta to dry enough to support a new layer of various outcroppings, or the building up of outcroppings with masses of clay underneath them, then scraping those supports away when drying has happened sufficiently, gave a great deal of time to reflect on the form, and, overall, required a lot of careful thought every step of the way... or at least that's what i imagine, as i haven't had significant first-hand experience in terra cotta... (course, this would be where i'd argue for stone sculpture if i cared to right now... i have my own gripes there, recently... i'm on a dedicated 3 week sculpting-vacation right now, and in the process of buying some new chisels and some stone, i keep running across people who tell me "oh no you can't carve marble with steel, you can only do it with carbide. it's not possible to do with steel."--i think everyone thinks stone is supposed to carve like wood, do they forget that carbide tipped chisels are a new invention? i had another person at a stone supply place tell me it's really not possible to carve marble without pneumatic carbide tools...)
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Old 01-01-2005, 04:40 PM
hpatenaude hpatenaude is offline
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Re: Rationales or justifications for sculpture

dwright... much good in your post; but thanks most particularly for the advice on crockpots/turkey-basters... i've been using a tin can with a 100 watt reflector light, per recommendation in richard [mcdermot?]'s book on wax+plaster... but the heat's not terribly consistently distributed, burning hot on top and tough underneath...
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Old 01-01-2005, 08:17 PM
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fritchie fritchie is offline
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Re: Rationales or justifications for sculpture; materials

Originally Posted by hpatenaude
dwright... much good in your post; but thanks most particularly for the advice on crockpots/turkey-basters... i've been using a tin can with a 100 watt reflector light, per recommendation in richard [mcdermot?]'s book on wax+plaster... but the heat's not terribly consistently distributed, burning hot on top and tough underneath...
Hanee - A practicing sculptor recommended a crockpot to me for heating wax almost immediately after I started in my own studio about a dozen years ago, and itís all I have used since. Before that, I think I used an alcohol lamp and tin can. A small soldering iron also helps with quick, localized heat.

I do regularly use a 100-watt lightbulb over a large plastic container of oil-clay to warm it, and I find this works very well, though itís a little slow at first. Commonly, I turn on the bulb as soon as I enter the studio, while getting other things ready.
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