As I looked through my sculpture inventory to select a piece for the June Members Show at River Arts Gallery in Damariscotta, I came across a wood sculpture that I had made a number of years ago. It is titled "Visceral Torso" and I carved it out of a section of a limb that had been trimmed off of a Linden tree on my property. (It is also known as Basswood.) The wood had various interesting surface textures and sections of irregular growth that made it a natural playground for sculpting. The original concept involved hanging the piece. It had one length of chain that went from the center of the top of the piece to the ceiling, and another that extended from the underside of the piece to a cement slab placed
directly below it on the floor. I liked the floating effect that I was able to achieve, but this method of suspending the sculpture also had limitations. Chain lengths had to be adjusted to accommodate varying ceiling heights and the piece could get overwhelmed by the amount space around it created by an excessively high ceiling. I had often thought about mounting the piece on a rod to create a more versatile and user friendly method of presentation, and the upcoming show presented the perfect opportunity to follow though on that thought.
After purchasing a 3/8" diameter metal rod at Home Depot, I went to the Rockler Woodworking Store in South Portland and picked up an 8"x8"x3" Padauk bowl turning blank to use as a base. I trimmed the Padauk down to 7"x7" so that I could add an 8"x8"x1" piece of Brazilian cherry underneath it to add just a bit more height to the base, and then drilled a 3/8" hole in the center of the Paduak. After sanding the two pieces of wood, I glued them together, adding 4 screws from the bottom to make sure the connection was secure. On top of the Padauk I also added a 2" diameter wooden disk (with a 3/8" center hole) that I made from one of the thin slabs that had been trimmed from the original blank. I finished off the assembled base with two coats of satin polyeurethane. The next step was to drill a hole in the sculpture for the rod. I drilled in the same place that the bottom chain had originally been attached and at the same angle. I was able to incorporate the place where the top chain had been attached into the contour of the sculpture with a bit of "creative carving". The final step was to apoxie the rod into the sculpture and then into the base. The newly mounted sculpture was well received at the show and will be on display until July 5th.
"Visceral Torso" ... 26" h
to the Gallery. The Seagull Shop & Restaurant has a shoreside view of the ocean and is right next to the iconic Pemaquid Lighthouse. What a way to start the day! (I must admit that I usually get to New Harbor early on the days that I sit the gallery, just so I can go to the Sea- gull before opening up the gallery.) After an informative member meeting, we got to the annual pre-opening tasks of cleaning windows, vacuuming and dusting, arranging furniture and trimming shrubbery. By the time we were finished, the gallery was ready for opening day on May 24th. All that is left is for the artists to come back and hang and arrange their work.
I went back to the gallery on Monday with my car packed with boxes of sculpture, reliefs and a few pieces of flatwork. I try to pre-plan the set-up for my area in the gallery on paper, but there are always a few elements that need to be rearranged a bit once you start setting them into place. This means bringing a few extra options that can be switched in if needed. This year I only needed to make a couple of changes to my planned arrangement, so things went into place fairly easily. After putting labels on all of my pieces and filling out my inventory sheets, I headed home. I'll be back on June 2nd for my first gallery sitting day of the season... after a relaxing breakfast at the Seagull.
My display space ... set up and ready for opening day on May 24th.
*Saltwater Artists Gallery will be open weekends starting May 24th, then 7 days a week starting June 15th.
plaster chisels to remove the roughed and thinned layer of gesso. Once the piece was entirely stripped I used 200 grit and then 400 grit sandpaper to regain the original smooth surface, and then sealed the sculpture with several coats of the satin spray paint. The final step was to make a wooden disk to attach to the bottom of the piece to protect the edges of the plaster base. I made the disk an inch smaller in diameter than the base of the sculpture and attached 4 wooden pegs that would insert into corresponding holes in the base. After staining and then sealing it with polyurethane, I epoxied the disk to the bottom the sculpture. The finished piece measures about 10" in diameter and stands about 8" high. It was done and I was pleased with the result! Off to the gallery on Friday...
.... 3 views
I began my work on the 6 1/4" x 10 5/8" slab by making four impressions of an edge of the disc in the clay, and then pressing a tin can into the centers of each of these partial circular impressions to create a smaller circle. I used a plastic container cap that had two raised arcs on its top to make a sequence of shapes in the space outside the centers, and then used several of the smaller found objects to make varying impressions within those shapes. The designs within the discs were fairly symmetrical at this point, and I knew that I wanted to add a subtle variation to slightly disturb that symmetry. I used a plastic jar lid that had a textured edge to make another circle within the central area that I had created with the tin can. Each new inmpression was placed just a bit off center. I also added a different impressed design in the center of each of them. The final step in the relief design process was to use a piece of window screening to create a lightly textured surface in the spaces surrounding the large discs. I was then ready to cast.
Rang in the New Year by finishing up two pieces for entry into the upcoming Black & White themed show at the River Arts Gallery in Damariscotta. The first piece that I tackled was a vertical design plaster relief. I was taking a brief break from the plaster fish relief designs I had been working on and wanted to play with something abstract. After experimenting on a slab of clay with a variety of objects from my collection of "impressionables" I zeroed in on a very large nut (the nut & bolt variety, not the edible kind!). It measured about 1 3/8" square. It had slightly rounded corners and one face was slightly rounded while the other was flat. Pressing the nut into the clay produced a domed effect in the center of the impression. When I pressed the end of a wooden dowel into the dome it became an "O". This led me to the idea of creating some sort of relief "tic tac doe design", so I used the end of a small thin piece of wood to impress an "X" in one of the domes. I liked the effect. I rolled out a 1/2" thick 6" x 10" slab of clay and got to work executing my design.
The size of the slab allowed me to make 21 impressions of the nut in 4 vertical rows of 7 (or 7 horizontal rows of 4, if you prefer). The design was to be based on the idea of tic tac toe, but it was not going to be an actual game set up with 9 boxes. I impressed X's and O's in patterns that I though might simulate game play without using 3 marks in a row, and I also left some domes plain to indicate that the game was either in progress or unfinished. After casting the design in plaster, I cleaned up any surface and edge irregularities, dried it and then painted it with graphite gray acrylic paint. Before framing the piece I rubbed the surface with a soft cloth to bring out the metallic quality of the paint. After matting and framing the finished piece, I was ready to start work on my next entry for the show.
I had to cut off the center portion of the bottom wooden screw so that I could glue the handle end in one side of the clamp and the tip end of the screw in the other side so that it would appear that the screw still went all the way from one side to the other. The top screw was easily glued into position without any adjustments. The final step was to add a hanging wire on the back and "Tic Tac Tic Tac" was complete. Both pieces have been delivered to the gallery and await the jury's verdict!
Before I began the painting process, I used my Dremel to create small "nibble marks" on one corner of the cheese block and on two places on the group of five slices. I primed the block, the group of five slices and the single remaining slice to insure that the wood grain pattern wouldn't show through the the light "cheese color" that I was going use to finish them. I then mixed up a batch of acrylic paint that suggested the color of cheddar (?) cheese and painted each of the cheese elements with four coats of that color and sealed them with matt medium. Before assembling the piece I lightly sanded the cutting board and sealed it with wipe-on polyurethane. I used wood glue to attach the cheese elements and the knife to the board. I used wood glue to attach the two wooden pegs for the mice to the board and the cheese block, and then I used epoxy to attach the two mice to their respective pegs. My second "fromage" is now completed...and I suspect the future holds a third!
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My concept for the base involved creating a wooden "cradle" that would support the piece under the roundest section of the bronze slab, but I also wanted to have a some space between the slab and the "cradle" so that the piece would not appear to be a part of the base structure. I wanted the supports to be spaced narrower than the width of the slab to further visually separate the piece and the base. I began by tracing the curve of the slab and then transferring that curve onto 2 matching pieces of yellowheart. After cutting the traced curve on the yellowheart boards, I cut a rectangular board to act as a baseboard. I attached each of the 2 curve topped pieces with 3 screws up through the baseboard. I then added 2 narrow yellow heart crosspieces at either end of the curved upright "cradle" boards. The next step was to add the elements that would allow me to attach the bronze slab to the "cradle".
My plan to attach the slab was to drill 2 holes in the back side of the thick end of the slab and epoxy them onto 2 pegs that would be inserted into the top crosspiece. I made 2 pegs out of yellowheart, but decided that the weight of the bronze might require pegs made of a more substantial material, so I switched the wooden pegs for ones cut from a 3/8" metal rod. I also decided to add a third smaller peg on the lower crosspiece to add greater stability. After sealing the base with satin polyurethane, I was ready to attach the sculpture...but wait! It occurred to me that I would get a more secure attachment if I used threaded rods rather that plain rods, so I made one last peg change before finally epoxying the sculpture to the base. C'est fini! The finished sculpture is now on display until October 19th at the River Arts Gallery in Damariscotta.
... views of completed "One" with base
go all the way through the slab. Slow going, but mission accomplished! After epoxying the Paduak piece to the bottom of the granite slab, I completed drilling the two through-holes through the wood and then added recesses in the wood to accommodate the washers and nuts that would be used for the attachment of the driftwood piece and the larger snail. The piece was ready for assembly.
I attached the pod bird by epoxying the short rods that extended from the bottom of each of the bird's feet into two of the 1/2" holes that I had drilled into the granite slab. The bronze driftwood had a threaded hole into which I had epoxied a piece of threaded rod. I inserted the rod through the through hole that I had drilled in the small end of the granite base and then secured it with a washer and nut. The last step was to attach the two snails. One had a threaded rod that went through to the wood and was attached in the same manner as the driftwood. The shorter rod on the smaller snail was simply epoxied into the final 1/2" hole. The completed piece is currently being shown until September 14th at the River Arts Gallery in Damariscotta. Stop by, if you are in the neighborhood!
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.