By Judy Feldman | www.wildemeyer.com
As a painter, my only experience with three-dimensional art is when I try to show the planes in something like a table, or work with perspective to try to draw the viewer into the scene. But a painting is always two dimensional because there is no actual depth. When you add that extra dimension of depth to length and width, you get 3D art.
Sculpture is a wonderful form of three-dimensional art. It’s primarily a hands-on process, and color takes a back seat to form. I wanted to know why some of the artists at Wilde Meyer favor sculpture (how can they live without red paint??), and learn about their techniques.
Tony Dow creates abstract bronze sculptures, as well as mixed media 3D pieces. He said that he’s always loved this medium, and has the ability to visualize a three dimensional image even before he starts to work on a piece. In his artist statement, he says the following about his work: "The figures are abstract and not meant to represent reality but rather the truth of the interactions as I see and feel them.”
Tony produces limited editions of nine bronzes using the lost wax process from molds of the original burl sculpture. He describes his method this way: “The first and most important step is to create the original figure that is to be cast. My originals are done in burl wood, which is extremely hard, requiring special carving equipment. The natural contour of the wood contributes to the form of each piece. Using various saws, chisels, grinders, and sanders, the details are brought out to reflect the concept of the piece.”
The bronze sculpture is then produced using the lost wax process at the foundry. It’s a pretty interesting process used by many sculptors, which I’ll describe here. A heat-resistant mold is formed around the wood original and encased in plaster. Once dry, the mold is separated into two pieces and the wood original is removed. Sometimes multiple molds are made for one sculpture.
The mold is then bolted together and filled with hot wax to produce a duplicate of the original wood sculpture. The final wax version is dipped in a plaster-like slurry to encase the wax figure. Once hardened, the new plaster mold is placed into an oven at 1800 F, where the wax melts away through ducts in the mold and leaves a plaster reproduction of the original mold. The cavity of the plaster mold is filled with bronze or other desired metal. Once cooled, the plaster is broken away leaving a rough cast version of the original sculpture which now has to be cleaned, reconstructed if more than one mold is necessary, and sandblasted.
Now the sculpture is now ready for patina, or coloring. After the piece is washed down to remove any contaminates, it is heated to the applicable temperature depending on the combination of acids used to produce the desired finish.
Jim Budish sculpts his smaller pieces in clay, and then casts them in bronze in the same lost wax method as Tony’s. For life-size and monumental works, he prefers to sculpt in low density foam with a hot-knife, applying clay to the surface before casting in bronze.
Jim said that he loves the feel of three-dimensional sculpture, and knowing that a bronze piece “will be around in 5,000 years, even though I won’t,” He creates whimsical animals that have exaggerated features, such as the rabbit ears in “Abby,” or the long, long legs of “Moose.”
Long ago, Jim realized that he didn’t want to sculpt "photographs" in bronze. He says, “I felt that I wanted to create my own new and unique direction in representing the human form and the forms of the multitude of special creatures surrounding us, exploring the unique attitude, emotion and personality of each, while attempting to capture the ‘joie de vivre’ that I believe is lurking somewhere inside all of us. Maybe if we smile more and take each other a little less seriously, people would get along better!”
Horses have always been a part of Lisa Gordon’s life. She says that there’s an emotional bond between herself and her horses.
”I drew and mimicked them as a child; I owned and trained them as a teen; studied and revered them in college. Now as an artist, it’s natural that I sculpt the horse's image. The horse is the figure through which I actualize my ideas. It becomes a tangible bridge between the viewer and me. My goal is to render the horse with empathy and respect without getting bogged down in realities.”
Lisa’s art studies exposed her to bronze casting. She said that she loves the hands-on physicality of sculpture. Her method is different from that of Tony or Jim’s. Lisa actually works directly in wax, heating it enough to manipulate it and then carving on it when it cools. “It kind of marries the skills of ceramics and woodworking,” she said. “I work with many technical processes that are woven seamlessly together so that the viewer cannot see the complex assemblage that’s required.”
If the scale of the piece is small, such as “Rocking Foal,” she’ll make a one-of-a-kind piece that may be part of a series with a theme. For a sculpture like “Trophy,” Lisa created the horse in that manner, then cast the handles, pedestals and balls. The central column is fabricated and and colored.
After speaking with these three artists, I realized that although it’s a tedious process, the pleasure of handling the materials and creating a three-dimensional image is what drives them to pursue this medium.
In my next blog, I’m going to speak to some other 3D artists – this time, the mediums will be ceramics and glass.