I have a hard time referring to the three dimensional artworks I create as sculpture. “Sculpture,” in my mind is synonymous with Bernini. Flesh and emotion expertly hewn out of marble. My work is more like building. Constructing.
No matter the designation, I find this three-dimensional creating immensely satisfying. My thought process is different, more expansive, than it is when I am drawing or painting. I have to think of all the angles the object can be viewed from. I think about physical voids and empty space. I get to figure out what raw materials will work best for what I am trying to build. I love that some materials submit gently to my manipulations, and that some resist. I also find the fact that the work takes up space, that it actively occupies, gratifying.
I finished my latest construction, Excerpt #11 Reactor, two weeks ago and brought it, along with two other pieces, to Toledo last week for Gallery Project’s upcoming exhibition, Re:Formation. The patterns on the sides of the base are derived from photos of the buttons and dials on the walls of nuclear reactor control rooms. I used glass beads to represent the beautiful cyan color of a nuclear reaction.
Following is what was involved in the building of this piece:
This structure is composed of birch plywood (1/4 inch for the top house-shaped part, and 1/2 inch for the base). I buy sheets of plywood at Lowes or Fingerlee Lumber. My husband, Matthew, cut the boards for me on his table saw.
I used Titebond III wood glue for plywood assembly. I sealed all the plywood with Golden GAC, then gessoed the sealed wood. (3 coats of regular gesso for the base and interior of the top, and 1 coat of regular gesso followed by 2 coats of sandable hard gesso for the top’s exterior. I used sandable hard gesso on the outside of the top to achieve a very smooth surface.) I painted the inside and outside of the top, and the outside of the base with 3 coats of black Speedball ink. I buy my inks at Blick and through Ziller. The roof is attached to its base via glued square dowels (hardware store purchase).
The top of the sculpture is completely separate from the base. The two pieces are held together with 4 aluminum cubes that have SETA Big Bumps on two sides – one side of the cubes stick to the top, the other to the base. I purchased the cubes at my local Alro Metals outlet store, which has a retail shop full of off cuts. I love to go there and look for materials.
For this sculpture I used carbon steel wire and copper wire. I buy wire at various local hardware stores, building supply stores and The Bead Gallery. Carbon steel wire has a mind of its own and is very springy. I coiled it around itself to create the interior wire ball, then threaded dowels through the wire ball. I glued the dowels to both the roof and its cube. Then I wrapped more carbon steel wire around and through this top house shape. I drilled holes in the base, poked the carbon steel wire into the holes and bent the wire ends inside to anchor them. Then I wound the wire around the base. I wrapped copper wire around some of the carbon steel wire. This both held the carbon steel wire in place and evoked a less static feel to some of the wire. There are glass and brass beads (purchased at The Bead Gallery and on Etsy) threaded onto some of the wires, both the wire ball inside the top and outside the structure.
I created a paper pattern and used it as a guide for drilling divots into the sides of the base, then glued brass beads and inert brass primers into the divots with Weldbond.
For transporting, Matthew constructed cradles for the base. The base, along with the plinth for The City, rode in our car roof box. The top of Reactor, The City, and Excerpt #6 rode in the back of our car. As The City is too tall to sit upright in the car, Matthew constructed a surface for it so it could ride at an angle, clamped in place.
After delivering the sculptures to the gallery space in Toledo, I re-assembled Reactor and adjusted its wires.
The space Gallery Project has rented for Re:Formation is gigantic — an abandoned department store with super high ceilings and massive pillars. Gallery Project was still planning out the show when I delivered my artwork and nothing was placed or hung yet, so my sculptures looked a little forlorn. We will transport the sculptures to the exhibition’s second location in Ann Arbor after it closes in Toledo.
Toledo: August 1 – 30, 2016 Opening Reception August 5th, 2016, 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Ann Arbor: September 9 – October 16, 2016, Opening Reception September 9th,, 2016, 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm