Friday, August 28, 2009

Sculpture and the Dilemma of Historic Restoration

How do all those people on the forensic shows do it? A fragment of a clue is turned over to some technician who quickly deciphers everything. If only it were so in real life.

The new job is two architectural elements that need to be re-sculpted. They'll be carved in foam and then cast in concrete to look like the original sandstone ornament. OK. So far, so good. It's for a Seattle historic reconstruction. Built in 1900, the top two floors were destroyed in a fire in the early 1940's. The only thing I have to work from is a black and white photograph of the building, taken in the 1930's, from across the street.

The photo has been scanned and "enhanced" in photoshop. This is where those technicians work their magic. But working with an 80 year old photo with poor resolution and all the photo shop magic in the world, I still have only the vaguest idea of what it could be.

It's very difficult to sculpt a vague idea. Bumps and shadows seem to indicate forms, but I've learned that a dark can be a stain as much as it might be a recess and what seems to be bouncing light, indicating a convex form might just be pigeon shit.

Even with the best intentions, see where "Historic Restoration" can go astray? Tell me crystal ball gazers, what do you see?

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