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The Evolution of a Sculpture

ccrichar's picture

The Evolution of a Sculpture


            Theevolution of a sculpture begins with an idea and a model.  The idea and model can come in manydifferent forms.  I will focus onthe idea of a human model, in particular, a female nude model.  This female nude model is five feet sixinches tall and weights about 130 lbs. She has very feminine lines within her figure making the challenge ofsculpting her rewarding.  In otherwords, there are a lot of wonderful qualities in this woman to work with whensculpting her body. 

            Beforeyou can begin sculpting her body, you must measure every inch of her body inorder to use the exact dimensions for a lifelike quality in the finishedproduct.  These dimensions ormeasurements are key to a proper armature, which is essentially the skeletonfor the figure. 

            Thearmature sits on a man made platform with wheels for mobility during theprocess.  The armature is thenbegun.  The armature is usuallymade of steel piping that is hand welded together to meet the dimensions of themeasurements previously taken.  Thearmature will look something like a skeleton, as we know it to resemble.  It will have a neck, shoulders, torso,hips, legs and feet.  However, itwill need a different kind of rib cage that is made of a separate and differentkind of material.  The reason forthis is mostly ease of the project. Try to imagine welding each rib in the rib cage.  This would be a large undertaking whenthere are simpler methods for such an undertaking and will do the samejob.  However, the main skeletonmust be strong enough to withstand the weight of the clay and other materialsused to make the sculpture. 

            Next,masking tape, newspaper crumbled-up, Styrofoam, anything that you can findincluding the trusty duct tape to help refine the armature so that it resemblesthe figure you are about to begin sculpting with clay.  Because of cost, I used brown coloredclay, as did the rest of my class sculpting this woman.  I began by applying the clay to myarmature generously to begin the evolutionary process of the sculpting.  First, it looked like a Degas-likesculpture with depressions or hole-like impressions everywhere giving thesculpture a very textured feel. This was not what I was trying to sculpt.  I was rather trying to sculpt realism.  I wanted to sculpt realism because Iliked the figure I was sculpting and wanted to see if I could capture herfigure accurately in the evolutionary moment of this time in my life.

            Ineeded to use calipers to measure and re-measure portions of her body to getthe depiction correct.  Once I wasable to capture the essence of her total being I began to become creative in adifferent way.  For instance, Imade an incision in her right arm and cut through the armature where her elbowmet her torso leaving the observer to fill in the blanks where I had removed apart of her arm. 

            Anothercreative decision I made with this sculpture was to remove her head and leaveher neck armature exposed.  Iwanted to create the illusion of art from another time.  Perhaps similar to ancient romansculptures that were left headless either on purpose or by damages to theartifacts.    

            Iwasn’t able to complete the sculpture to bronze but did complete it inclay.  I was very satisfied with itand wanted to move on to the next step which would have been to cast it inplaster and make a mold then use the mold the cast her into bronze.

            Notunlike evolution, sculpting is an evolutionary series of processes or stepsthat are taken to bring you somewhere and sometimes it is unending.  I could have tweaked this sculptureforever while in its clay phase but was comfortable enough with the place I wasat, to stop and move onto the next phase. In Paul Grobstein’s “Cezanne and Beyond” series he discussed theevolution of his art from realism to abstract.  That theory can be applied to my evolutionary process withmy sculpture, particularly when I was finishing up the sculpture and made thosecreative changes to her body. Those creative changes I would argue were evolutionary within me as abudding sculptor. 

            Inconclusion, we as human beings are always evolving and my example of sculptingis just one way to express this evolutionary process. 


Anne Dalke's picture

sculpting evolution

It’s a real pleasure for me to see the various ways in which you and your classmates are extending the argument of this course beyond the texts we’ve read together, in order to think about cultural evolution more largely conceived.

Your essay has a particular power because it is a testimony not only to the evolutionary process of making a work of sculpture, but to your own evolution as an artist, moving, as Cezanne moved, from representing a figure realistically to doing something more expressionist. You start trying to make something “life-like,” by taking and applying a large number of measurements. Once you have captured those qualities, you start experimenting with innovations that gesture both towards the future (“leaving the observer to fill in the blank” parts you had removed) and towards the past (the illusion of damaged artifacts). I’m puzzled about that last innovation: why do you want your work to appear as if it were damaged?

I was also surprised, halfway through this description, to realize that you were working as part of a sculpture class. How does the fact that this is not a solitary process change the story you are telling? To what degree is you work affected by the renditions (of the same object) that others are creating simultaneously?

Particularly evocative, I thought, of the work of this course (and particularly affirmative of it, too) is not only the description of your own evolution as a budding sculptor, but also your final gesture toward the unfinishedness of the project you are describing, in which we are all engaged as human beings.