Monday, October 31, 2011

Sculpture and Halloween

What is scarier than the hair and make-up photos displayed in a hair design school in a mall?
Answer: When some prankster carefully places 3D googly eyes on the models.
I noticed something disturbing when we parked the car. Close inspection revealed the reason.

Simple and remarkably effective in turning fashion victims into zombies.

Who is next?

And two great pumpkins carved in a Northwest Coast Indian style in the window of Arthur Erickson Inc, Fine Arts and Unusual Anitques.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sculpture and Relief

Jennifer said, "All sculpture surely is about how light affects a surface of different bevels and planes? That's true in theory for any visual perception of viewer and artist alike.........

Here's what I believe: It is the artist's JOB, especially if attempting a realistic relief portrait, to be aware of how you shape every surface so that the play of light does exactly what you want it to do: Enhance the story you are try to tell.

This relief doesn't show any awareness of that. The background is the standard issue lightly textured (faux leather) panel used in the foundry business for grave markers and monuments. Because the artist went with a predtermined flat panel, they lost the opportunity to shape the background higher or lower to create pools of shadow or highlights around the figure.

(Oh I forgot, there's NO figure to worry about!)

Also by using that textured background, unaltered, there is no unity of surface. Fake leather meets fake skin meets fake hair. Chunk, chunk chunk. Good art reveals itself in how skillfully the transitions are handled, how your eyes are guided throughout the work.

These transitions are as subtle as a slammed door.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sculpture and Relief

Sculptor Jennifer Tetlow and Artist Cindy Michaud took issue with my critique of the last post. They challenged me to educate instead of rant and rave about the art of bas relief.

I took the weekend off to think about my initial reactions to the work and why they were so strong. I'll be discussing relief in the next couple of posts.

Looking at this relief, the first question I ask "Where is her body?" I see a hand holding a book and a head on a flat background. When striving for realism, as treatment of head and hand lead me to believe, it's disturbing to cut the body into separate pieces.

Her severed head reminds me of John the Baptist served up to Salome. Is that the story the artist is telling? Or will she pop through the wall to hand me a book too?

Is it a good idea to hang a patron's head on the wall like a stuffed animal trophy?

Anything goes with post-modernism, but the absence of any attempt to connect head and hand tells me about the artist's thought process. It's easy to model separate parts, what's hard is to put them together and have it work as a whole. This doesn't.

What does this aspect of the work say to you?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sculpture and Bad Relief

 It's October, so lets call this the severed head and hand school of bad relief. 
This horrid apparition is right outside the children's room of Portland's beautiful Central Library.

The artist wisely chose not to sign this piece.

Are there no critical standards anymore?
It's bad from every angle.
Applying a decapitated head or hand to a flat surface does NOT count as a relief.

People's (both artists and the public) ignorance of the art of relief never fails to astonish me.
Know nothing about relief? Look at any handful of coins.

Relief is as much about drawing as it is about dimension. Relief is about the play of light over a surface composed of different bevels and planes. That's what makes it so exciting.

Not to leave you with a bad work of art, here's one from the master, St Gaudens who does more in 1/2 inch than the above does in 10 clumsy inches.
Detail of marble relief by A. St Gaudens.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sculpture and Joshua Harker

How do artists reach new audiences? They create entirely new pathways.

New technologies are changing both the way sculpture is made and how it is marketed. Sculptor Joshua Harker's project, called “Crania Anatomica Filigre: Me to You”, is a Kickstarter success, reaching its full funding in record time. The lace like skull is built on a 3D printer.
More on the story here

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sculpture and Richard Brandt

Richard Brandt goes into uncharted ceramic territory with his sculptural work.

Fascinated by arcane technologies, Brandt's sculpture explores a future/past of engimatic objects. His machine parts look as if they've survived a meteoric crash of an alien space craft. The rough bodied clay sculpture is wood fired which adds layers of spontaneous colors and texture from long exposure to extreme heat and ash.
Dorje Gear ceramic sculpture by Richard Brandt ©2011 8" X 11" X 7"

Crown Gear ceramic sculpture by Richard Brandt  ©2011  10" X 10" X 9"

Spiral Sprocket Gear ceramic sculpture by Richard Brandt  ©2011 10" X 10" X 10"
Brandt says this about his work: "The objects that I make are post-industrial artifacts from the future.…clumsy arthritic parts of machines with specific functions, yet these parts are rendered obsolete through time and displacement. Their forms tell a story of being unfinished…as if a sudden shut-down of their manufacturing took place."

Richard Brandt is part of Portland Open Studios this weekend.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sculpture and Estate Sales

Do you love a good object puzzle?... as in "What on earth is this?"

My mind starts trying to figure what it is, who made it and how and why.
Is it part of a master's thesis in slip cast stoneware?
"It's solid and too heavy for clay. It feels like stone. 
No tool marks. How'd they get such great round shapes?"

An esoteric Chinese painter's paper weight?  "No ink stains."
Pre-Columbian pestle? "No signs of oil or grinding wear."

 Is it a sex toy? "Oh god, I've already handled all of them! ."

I had to buy two of them because their shapes were so interesting, and asked at the sale cash register, "What on earth is this?" 
and was told "It's fossil poo poo."

Coprolite! That explains the organic shapes.

After a million years, do I still need to wash my hands?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sculpture and Bukranium

Marble skull and swag from Hearst Castle
Bukrania is a carved or modeled representation of a bull's skull.
According to John Summerson's The Classical Language of Architecture   bukrania are often found in the metopes for the Doric frieze.
Bull skull Un-sacrificed?
The bulls have left the Doric buldings, They've been modernized and are now used as ornament on much simpler architecture.  But they are still there. That shield shape is not heraldic, it's the last remnant of pagan architecture.
Look around and you'll start seeing them.

Update: Here's another one.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sculpture and Computer Modeling

 Seldom has bad news looked so good.
An architect friend submitted a proposal for a building redesign incorporating my paper cut designs into safety railing and sun screens. My designs were not chosen, (damn!) but just seeing them computer rendered as architectural elements makes me very happy. Just look at the shadows they make!

Papercut designs by Patrick Gracewood ©2011
I've had this idea for a long time of taking the intricacies of paper into steel for gates and screens that are functional but also beautiful, but lacked the computer skills.

Solution? Find someone who does! Problem solved.
Seeing these renews my commitment to making shadows.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sculpture and House Painting

What saves our new house colors from being too conservative is a little bit of sparkle.
23 carat gold sparkle.
House Bling: 23 carat gold leaf
Our very capable contractor, Mark Downing, suggested I make a sculpture for the apex of the roof.
I said, "Too fussy. It should be gold." We laughed but then thought, "Why not?"

The small touch of gold leaf is both a funny blessing for the house and an ironic commentary on the cost of stripping the building down to bare wood, priming and repainting it.
The first part of the building to catch the morning sun, glows and bounces the light back to the world.
Antiquarian and restoration expert, John Barrett, braved three stories of scaffolding, carrying all the necessary tools and his supplies in a small bag. He applied the oil varnish in the morning and came back in the late afternoon to apply the 23 carat gold leaf.
Antiquarian and restoration expert John Barrett applies the colored oil varnish base for the gold leaf.
 Does this count as conceptual art?
So with all the painting and gold leaf, and the decision NOT to use sculpture,
where does sculpture come in?
That's for the next post when the scaffolding comes down.