I was awarded a commission to create a 15 foot tall, steel and marble, sculpture for the Town of Avondale AZ. The sculpture will be placed in front of the Civic Center. Installation date is planned for November.
The sculpture consists of four steel columns with abstract bird shapes at the top. I ordered the marble cut to the required dimensions from the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center in West Rutland, Vermont.
Avondale Birds presentation drawing.
Setting up the steel columns.
Welding everything together. Stainless steel plates will bolt the stone onto the columns.
Carving the marble.
The columns are made of mild steel and will have a rust patina. The columns range in size from 10 1/2' to 14 1/2' in height, and will be welded on to a 4'x4'x3/4" steel base plate. The marble shapes will be bolted on to the columns with stainless steel plates. This will keep rust from getting on the white marble.
Below is a video of the carving process involved in sculpting the marble birds. After the carving part was finished, the carvings were polished with a pneumatic center water feed polisher and diamond polishing pads.
A crane was need...
to set the steel columns in place.
Each marble piece had 6 bolts.
The crane lifted each marble piece...
and they were bolted on to stainless steel plates.
The finished sculpture installed.
I received a commission to sculpt a Mobius Variation in limestone. I split the block with slips and wedges to get the correct proportions.
I started by drawing the design on the front and back of the block. I've carved shapes like this before, so I didn't feel I needed a maquette.
The basic shape was roughed out with a 7" diamond saw and a point chisel. A hammer drill created the honeycomb holes that helped in carving out the hole in the center.
As I got closer to the final form, I used the 4 1/2" diamond saw and a pneumatic hammer and tooth chisels.
The bottom of the block was left on during carving and removed a the end. Texture was applied to the center circle, while the outside egdes were sanded smooth.
A separate base was added using glue and stainless steel pins.
I was looking through my photographs of a visit a few years ago to Isamu Noguchi’s studio in New York City, now a museum, and remembered that, as I entered, how I was immediately struck by the sense of calm and peace that came over me as I walked into a garden graced with his stone carvings. The aura of the stone sculptures was tangible.
Noguchi Museum garden
Noguchi is my favorite sculptor. He worked in stone, hard stone – granite, basalt. Stone born from the core of the earth, stones that will last for eons. Granite is hard. It resists the carver. I like the fact that he made stone his primary media in which to work. Noguchi did not try to overpower the stone, to force it into a predetermined shape. He worked with the shapes and characteristics of each stone, letting the stone guide his carving. It was a conversation with the stone, not dictating, but adding his thoughts in collaboration with the stone. His thoughts melding with the granite, to live on for a very long time.
“Rock itself is very fundamental. It is within the ecological continuum of the world. I’m afraid that a lot of sculptures will be considered a kind of pollution, like tin cans, because they don’t belong. Whereas rocks belong, I mean even more than you or I. They know how to go just the way they are supposed to go, back into the earth.“ Isamu Noguchi
The Seeker Sought
The Renee Taylor Gallery in beautiful Sedona, AZ has begun exhibiting my horse sculptures. The gallery is across the street from the quaint Tlaquepaque Village shops.
We love visiting Sedona, which is surrounded by spectacular red cliffs and huge sculptural rock formations. An enjoyable afernoon can be spent wandering through the shops in Tlaquepaque Village, and of course, vueing the art work at the Renee Taylor Gallery.
I’m adding the finishing touches to a stainless steel and cast glass sculpture. The upward swirling spiral motion of the stainless steel is a theme I have returned to several times. The one inch thick cast glass circles add some color and a nice translucent quality to the shinny stainless steel.
After sculpting the two nine foot tall horses in shiny stainless steel for the Cave Creek Monuments, I became interested in the horse as sculptural form. I decided to sculpt another horse. This one is in mild steel and will be painted black.
The process started with my original drawing on letter-size paper. The drawing was then scaled up using a grid system of 1/2 ” = 6″. Once the drawing is enlarged, design changes were needed to make work with the larger size. I reworked the enlarged drawing and changed the shapes of some of the parts.
With tracing paper, I traced each shape from the large drawing. The traced shapes were then transfer to Masonite board. The Masonite shapes were cut out on the band saw, and used as templates for cutting out the thick leg parts with an oxy-acetylene torch. The thinner body shapes were cut out with a plasma cutter.
For structural strength, the legs were cut from 3/4″ steel . Half-inch round steel rod was shaped to define the outer profile of the body. Any rough edges were taken off with a grinder.
The cut steel parts were bent to shape, then tack welded into place. If they didn’t look quite right, they were removed, reshaped, and repositioned. The overlapping shapes provided the structural strength for the upper body.
I painted the ‘inside’ of each shape before attaching them. Once the whole body is assembled, I won’t be able to get in and paint the inside, or the overlapping parts.
The sculpture is starting to take shape. I redrew the design for the head several times, until I was happy with it. The next step is to cut out the parts for the other side of the body, and weld them on… and keep working on the designing the head.
The steel horse sculpture is completed. It is primed and painted a flat black. The dimensions are 62″x72″x20″.
On a recent trip to San Francisco, I visited the Legion of Honor Museum and was impressed by the large room filled with sculptures by Auguste Rodin. As I walked into the room, I was immediately struck by the power of a single bronze hand. The fingers were gnarled and twisted, like the roots of a tree. The wrist straining, tendons bulging, with some unknown anguish. As I looked at it, I could envision a writhing torso. The single hand expressing the anguish that a whole figure could not.
There were also two portraits. One, a bronze, with deep sunken eyes that captivated your attention. Having carved faces in wood, I studied how Rodin modeled the face. How he sculpt the eyes and mouth. The eyes were deep set. The brow protruding. It was a master class in portraiture.
In a side isle was a glass case with a delicate and touching portrait of Camille Claudel. It was the plaster model. She is wearing a Phrygian Cap, an artistic representation of freedom and liberty. I always like seeing the plaster versions of bronze sculptures, they seem closer to the original vision of the sculptor. Unlike the dramatic expression of the bronze portrait, this was sensitive and introspective. A quiet moment in what would later become a tortured relationship for Camille.
There were other bronzes, small studies for the 'Burghers of Calais', to the full-size 'Thinker', but it was the small sculptures, the studies, that gave me a deeper insight into Rodin.
For several years I had been thinking about creating a sculpture for my new home town of Cave Creek. I was excited when I heard that the Town Manager had announced a proposal for the Cave Creek Monuments Competition.
Cave Creek is an old copper mining town. It takes its name from a large cave along a creek. The cave was once inhabited by Hohocam Native Americans (there are a few of their petroglyphs there) and later by the U.S. Calvary (there to chase the Native Americans). Cave Creek is still a very Western town with a long tradition of horsemanship.
We have our home in Cave Creek and my studio is located near the center of town. We moved here five years ago from Buffalo NY and feel that we are quickly becoming part of the town.
When people think of Cave Creek, the images that come to mind are ‘a bit of the Old West’, and horses. Cave Creek is an eclectic mix of the old and the new; rustic and contemporary. While the town has the traditional flavor of the West, modern day influences also enrich the town. It is the mix of these two aspects that make Cave Creek so colorful and interesting.
I tried to capture an impression of both of those aspects by the choice of materials and the design concept. Rust-colored steel and natural sandstone depict the rougher, historic side of the town, and shiny stainless steel and contemporary design hints at the more modern influences.
The competition’s call to artists was open to the whole country. There were seventeen entries, that were then narrowed down to eight. At the Town Council meeting, the Councilmen narrowed it down farther, finally choosing my proposal.
The project consisted of creating two identical monuments, one for each entrance to the town. My design was for a horse rearing up on its hind legs and standing on a four foot tall rusty-steel and stone base. The horse is fabricated out of stainless steel and stands nine feet in height. The monuments are thirteen feet tall.
The monuments are located on Cave Creek Road at either entrance to the town. One is located on Cave Creek Road a half mile south of Carefree Highway. The other one is at the north entrance coming into town from Carefree, near Stagecoach Village.
The horses are fabricated out of 304 stainless steel. Due to the sculpture’s height and the high winds we sometimes get, wind load capacity had to be considered when engineering the strength of the armature. The ribbon shapes were cut out with a plasma cutter and welded in place with a MIG welder and 308 stainless steel wire. From striking the first arc for welding to the final dedication, the project took six and a half months.
To see the step-by-step process of making the monuments, from design concept to installation and dedication, please visit my web site at ww w.thesculpturestudio.com. There is a link on the left side navigation bar at the bottom for the Cave Creek Monuments page, or just click Cave Creek Monuments.