In October I will be installing a hanging sculpture in the Ann Arbor Art Center’s Aquarium Gallery. The Aquarium is an 8 x 8 x 2.5 foot street-facing exhibition space on the side of the Art Center’s building in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan. So far all I’ve been working on is prep, which always seems to take the longest. I hope to start constructing the artwork later this week. It will be made of sticks, wire, and glass beads, and possibly glass tile and paper, depending on how things go together and how it looks as it progresses.
I mostly concoct things in my head and then build. I rarely create any preliminary sketches or maquettes, but this, being a site-specific piece, I constructed and photographed a maquette for the Art Center to get an idea of what I wanted to construct for the Aquarium. Here’s the maquette:
It might be obvious, but the final sculpture will be a lattice of sticks from which a number of little houses in wire cage-nests, and strings of glass beads, will hang.
I use sticks in a lot of my sculptures. I gather them periodically and let them dry in my basement. When they’re completely dry I remove as much bark as possible with a putty knife.
I wanted to paint the sticks for this sculpture. After removing the bark I sealed the sticks with Golden GAC 100, then primed each one white. I thought I could save time and use an inexpensive spray paint primer, but when I had gone through two cans of spray paint and had not completely covered the sticks, I gave up on the spray and went to gesso. If I had used a higher quality primer spray paint I might have had better luck. Anyway, I know gesso works, and after two coats on each stick I had a wonderful matte surface.
Next was to paint all the sticks blue. I wanted the sticks to have a very smooth, matte feel so I used Molotow Urban Fine Art spray paint, cerulean blue. I used one and a half cans to paint all the sticks. I touched up the few places I missed with Golden High Flow Acrylic paint, cerulean blue hue. It’s a close color match, but not perfect, so I painted and dabbed the acrylic paint onto the sticks where needed; essentially feathering the paint into the Molotow color to make it blend in. After the color was completely dry I applied matte Liquitex spray varnish.
Hanging houses in cage-nests are integral elements of the sculpture. These houses are the same wooden shapes I use in a number of sculptures and are cut from 2x4s. They are sealed with GAC 100 and painted with tinted gesso. I used Daler-Rowney FW process cyan ink to tint the gesso. After three coats of tinted gesso I started wrapping the houses with .041 inch stainless steel lock wire. I’m starting with 30 houses. I may need more or I may use fewer; time will tell. This afternoon I ran out of lock wire with 6 more houses to go, so I’ll be going shopping at Harbor Freight tomorrow morning.
I applied the varnish to the sticks this morning and will let that dry overnight. It’s been so hot and humid here; the layers of primer, gesso, and paint took longer than usual to dry.
A bit more prep and I will be able to begin putting it all together.