A number of years go I went to a teachers' workshop hosted by the Portland Museum of Art in Portland. One of the activities that we participated in was an experience in working with self-hardening clay. We were given a small handful of the material, and asked to make something. I started out forming a face that, after I played with the structure of the mouth, then morphed into some sort of split personality. As I looked at the clay, I felt the challenge to take it a step further - to create the faces of 3 different characters within the structure of the original face that would reveal themselves as the piece was rotated in front of the viewer's eye. I really enjoy a challenge, so I did end up with a face with 'multiple personalities'.
I later took a mold making class and used the original clay piece to make a rubber mold with Brush-On 35 ( from the Smooth-On Company) to make a plaster cast. I was never one to let a good mold stand idle, so I eventually used it to cast the piece in bronze. I liked the result, but upon reflection, I must say it may have been misnamed... perhaps 'Menage a Quate', or perhaps even 'Cinq' !
'Menage a Trois'.... 3 views... 4"h
The idea for this portrait in bronze started simply - I made a wax cast of my face from a *mold that I had taken from a plaster life mask of myself. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it, but knew that it would have to be supported it in some way. Extending the neck was a start to solving the support problem, but I also needed to find a way to finish the back side of the face in order to bring the composition full circle.
As I looked to the wax mask for answers, an image slowly started to emerge from the back side of the mask - the natural contours of the inside surface of the wax cast seemed to contain the vague suggestion of a human figure. As I added wax to bring out the form, the prominence of the sizable buttocks and the extreme bend of the back immediately appealed to my sense of humor. I saw the figure back-bending behind the face and my mind was off and running... I would shrink the figure's head and elongate the the limbs to emphasize the illusion of depth in the space behind the face. Support and composition problems solved ... with the added bonus of a surprise 'ending'. I have my own explanations and interpretations of the piece, I leave viewers to come up with their own.
* Note: The mold for this face mask was also used multiple times to create my clay 'Portrait of the Artist'. Image can be viewed in the Ceramic page of the Sculpture section of my website, as well as in the Slideshow section.
I am currently working on a wax that will eventually be cast in bronze. The idea for this piece came from working with plaster molds on 3 earlier pieces. The first was a *ceramic piece, 'Stair Triptych'. It consisted of 3 separate sections that incorporated a combination of Escher-like stairs and doorways that were juxtaposed at various angles. This led me to the thought of making a bronze piece that combined a series of similar units. I modified the design of the 3 stair modules and cast 3 new molds to use for making multiple waxes. The result was my *bronze, 'Relief '. The molds were utilzed again in making the base for my *bronze piece 'Stilt Walker '. Even as I completed these earlier works, the concept for this current piece was formulating in the back of my mind....bend these modules into a sphere.
Pod, seeds, & twigs
Although I generally work in wax when creating a piece that is going to be cast in
bronze, I also like to explore a variety of combustible found objects and materials.
I find they can provide both familiar and unusual textures and forms, as well as having the potential be transformed into something totally new and unique.
I found some interesting pods among
the dried flowers at an arts & crafts store. They were 5 sided and had a woody exterior that had a variety of textures. One end of the pod was pointed and the other had an extended 'collar' where the pod would have been attached to a stem. I also found some lotus flower seed pods that each held many oval seeds. By adding four bent twigs from
an old lilac bush, I ended up constructing a long legged, pop-eyed, snout-nosed bug.
I liked the creature I had created, but knew that it wouldn't last unless it was cast. The attachment locations for the legs on the underside of the
bug were not very secure because the interior of the pod was very 'pithy'. The resulting bronze cast of the piece was successful in capturing the details on the surface of the pod and the legs - and the legs were firmly attached. This initial 'test bug', combined with a sizable bronze frog and two antique wooden croquet stakes, then became my sculpture 'After Dark' (see photo on bronze sculpture page of website). The success of the first pod bug led me
to make and cast two additional bugs. After I patina them, I will mount them on a piece of weathered wood (see
image below) to become the sculpture 'Guardian'.
P.S. There may also be a few pod 'birds' in my future...
Bronze Pod Bug Guardian...11"h
Cynthia Smith, Maine artist, originally from Connecticut. Taught art at secondary level for 35 years, retired in 2004. Sculpts in bronze, wood, stone, clay & plaster. Her work can be seen at several mid-coast Maine galleries and shows.