I was invited to do a public performance sculpture during the annual three day Comfest Community Festival in Columbus, Ohio, first in 2014, and then each year since. It is always a fun way to interact with the public of all ages and sorts.
Cast Concrete, Steel, Live performance with public participation, dimensions variable
This column in Goodale Park in Columbus, Ohio, originally installed in 1899, has deteriorated badly. I have been commissioned by a Centennial Preservation Group to re-carve the heads. My proposal is to rebuild the missing parts with clay and then to re-carve new sandstone blocks to match the clay.
The gate and column were a gift in 1899 to the City’s first park. The original meanings of the column animals have been lost to time, although we do know that the eight human heads on the gate represent the eight stages of Man. The carving is masterful, and does not resemble any other carving in the Columbus area, that I know of. We know nothing of the original artist.
The tooling on the buff sandstone has survived remarkably well, and demonstrates the level of the craftsmanship brought to this column. The heads are about 9′ off the ground- too high to touch. The wear is likely from acid rain and the burning of coal for so many decades.
The cap came off easily, and we set it aside. After we had picked the section with the heads and put it on my truck, we put the cap back for safekeeping while the restoration is done in my studio.
Playing with big lifts and heavy things is always exciting. Although no one can really see it, the scalloped top is textured with one continuous spiral line from top to bottom.
This is the only original photo the historical committee could give me. Detail must be inferred. It is agreed the animal on the left is probably a panther, and that the one on the right is a lion. The ram, not show here, is extent enough to know it is a ram, but the fourth head was badly deteriorated and no known photo exists.
The ears, the eyes, a bit of the for head, and a grainy photo are all there is to go on, but that’s enough to conclude it was a stylized panther.
Part of an eye, droopy ears, and a bit of forehead seem to indicate the subject was a dog. No known photographs exist.
The ram is pretty much intact, and a hint at the style that may have been used for the other heads, although it does seem very different.
The lion head featured a bit of an ear, some mane, and pits indicating the height of the eyes. The source photo and the extent remains indicate this was a lion. Here I have started on the lion, and on the left is an early version of the panther.
Using an oil-based clay that gets softer with heat (I use an old Sunbeam electric skillet), I rebuilt the heads in full scale in my shop. This is an early stage of the panther. The lion is on the right, the dog on the left. The sandstone blocks are 16 1/2″ tall.
I was able to get a good start by making the right begin to mirror the left. At this stage I had to commit to something, and felt that the only defensible choice was a dog.
The red sandstone is the original carver’s work. I have tried throughout to do what I could to work in his style more than my own. I’ve learned during this process several pointers from the past.
The lion, nearly complete. I will add textural details in the sandstone when I recarve them.
The dog is as animated as I could get him, given the restraints.
I gave the panther a sneer, as the eyes sort of implied that, as did the source photo. He struck me as a tease, a mischief maker.
Comfest is a big deal in Columbus, Ohio. Each summer volunteers put on three days of music, activist opportunities, and fun. Last year the organizers decided to add sculpture and asked me to participate. I had these pieces left over from roughing out an earlier piece, and drilled them and glued in steel pins on one end. They were easy to plunge into the soft ground to build ever changing sculptures, some made by me alone, others with the help of the festival goers.
For three days I made a constantly evolving piece, with the help of the community. It was a lot of fun, and there were some interesting conversations and interactions. Doing Art in public is a riot.
The square gave way to the circle., one piece at a time. Each post weighs about thirty pounds. At the end of each day I was definitely feeling it.
This piece was done by gently tossing the posts through the air and letting them land as they may. I wish I had taken a video of this one. Several of us plucking the posts from the circle and tossing them around. Good times. Would have made great video.
This version is so relaxed it almost looks drunken.
After I had completed this one, a man approached and performed an amazing feat- he leaped them al, on after the other, without stopping and without blowing a single landing.
It was hilarious to watch the would-be ninjas try to balance on these structures, clearly a bit buzzed… not.
My friend Ashley came by (wonderful painter) and asked if I would do him as a chalk outline. He got way more than he asked for. No bumping the sculpture allowed!
And then he managed to crawl out without disturbing a single stone. Go Ashley!
Now ask yourself- how did he get out of there? Not for the faint of heart. He was VERY slow about it, I must say.
That is all balance, and in a very public and crowded space. Majestic, it was. And all by eye. No measuring tools were used throughout the festival.
This one occupied the most space and took the longest time to make. Very tricky- and very cool.
This subtle piece was done by a volunteer. I dig it.
Peace, Art, and good times on a summer day. Wonderful.
Ihad a great time. Thanks Comfest. What for next year, eh?
This is a photo of Blue, Butler University’s mascot. Butler has been a champion basketball team for generations, and I have had the honor of doing several projects for the university. The latest was a columbarium to hold the ashes of all past and future mascots. I was commissioned to do a sculpture for the memorial.
The dog house has been built to last, and the guard is too.
A block of styrofoam has been begun. Myself and my fellow sculptor and friend Anthony Jacobs used a large hot wire to cut through the foam. Nobody else was there to take our picture.
Carving the styrofoam armature is very tricky, because the eye’s tendency is to imagine the form of the finished piece, which would leave no room for experimentation and improvisation.
The clay I like is an oil-based clay that is hard at room temperature, but softens with heat. I use an old electric wok to heat the clay. Hot it can be poured; cold it can be carved like stone. It is useable for different purposes throughout the temperature range.
Bronze is very revealing of texture. The difference between the two textures, once cast, will be very clear.
Trip, Butler’s current mascot, came to inspect the finished clay master. Henry gave Trip a good sniffing. Note that Trip even has his own car!
Michael, Trip’s owner and handler, came to inspect the finished clay master. We made a few adjustments, and then Trip gave his approval.
The finished master on the way to the foundry.
At the foundry a rubber mold is taken of the clay master. The mold is made of several different sections so that it can be removed without damage to itself or to the master. Once complete, the mold will beken off the master and painted on the inside with hot wax until a wax reproduction of the clay master is created. The wax reproduction is about 1/4″ thick.
The finished mold. The rubber has been covered with plaster so it will hold its shape. Each of the plaster sections has been keyed so that they lock together.
After the wax reproduction is finished it is cut into smaller pieces, each of which is dipped repeatedly into a fluid form of ceramic slurry, each coat of which is also coated with a fine sand for stability. The ceramic is liquid, so it conforms to the shape of the wax perfectly. Once enough of a shell has been formed, the mold is fired in a special kiln, which melts the wax out at the same time that it fires the ceramic shell. The completed hollow mold will have molten bronze poured in, which will perfectly reproduce the shape of the wax reproduction of the clay master.
The bronze head, after the ceramic mold has been broken off and the bronze sandblasted clean. The sections will next be welded back together, the welds cleaned and the texture chased to match the original, and then a patina will be applied.
The welding process.
John Cline, Foundry master, demonstrating how difficult the process is.
The completed bronze is then heated with a torch and chemicals are sprayed onto the hot metal to change the color of the surface of the metal. After this, the sculpture is sealed and waxed.
Headed to Indianapolis for the installation on campus.
The finished sculpture, installed on campus, with the completed columbarium.
Dedication. Beautiful day.
The finished sculpture will be guarding the remains of the Butler mascots for generations to come. Thanks Butler Class of 2014!!!
Created for an Integrative wellness center, this piece is designed to be interactive. Viewers can rotate the entire piece on a ball bearing placed under the base.
This detail demonstrates the texture, revealing how the forms are “drawn” in space.
Piercing all the way through a block of this size is very difficult, but the dramatic result is worth the effort.
The original block weighed 10,500 pounds. Finished, it is around 5,000. It is an interesting feeling to rotate that much weight.
The piece is always sightly different in the landscape, as seen from the main building.
The depth of field of the piece is well shown in this detail.
This piece was created over the winter of 2013-2014, and installed in the spring of 2014. It was a joy, despite the intense winter, to create this piece.
A local resident left part of her estate to establish a children’s reading garden in the rapidly developing Delaware County Library System. I am honored to have been the first selected. I hope my work inspires young readers for generations to come.
I thank the Delaware County Library for their complete gift of artistic freedom. This piece was an unusual pleasure to create.
The kiss; the two sides unite.
The hammer blow… from thus, this. Magic. Reality. Here.
The exploring fish, unnerved… a marvel of the mysterious sea.
Forest spirits making sure the gold of legends is taken care of… and one of the Leprechauns has given up his duty for a higher cause.
The tunnel of myth… dare you?
This piece was commissioned by my local library. I love libraries, and ours is a good one. I was given the theme, and the rest was left up to me. I spent the winter and early spring of 2012/2013 on this piece.
This is the view as seen from the parking lot. It was landscaped last year, so the trees are young. I am sure that in a few years this will be a beautiful place to spend a summer afternoon reading.
I drove the piece down this path with it strapped to my forklift.
There is a story to the whole thing, of course. The story begins with Cyclops, the Greek God of the forge, and of Creativity, shatters the veil that separates this side from the other.
The Leprechauns are guarding their gold as the forest watches over them, and a Mongolian Sand Worm rises up to try and break through. Cerberus will have none of that.
If one comes out and looks at the view from the other side, this is what one finds. Here Cerberus allows an open passage, and King Arthur is pulling Excalibur from the stone. Ulysses sails beneath the Man in the Moon, and the Banshee howls.
The border pattern was taken from an old Harvard Classics copy of Shakespeare that I had on my shelf, as were the proportions of the book. The entire piece is in the form of a book.
Just a little sight seeing, officer, really… Strapped to the lift and ready for the delivery.
All aboard! Man, that was a nerve wracking drive.
The truck followed me in my smaller truck with the tools, etc., so I couldn’t see the piece in my rear view. I hoped I had thought of everything that could go wrong and covered for it.