Art or Tums?

My sculpture professor came to me several times trying to encourage me to sculpt a block of marble. In my senior year in college, earning a Fine Arts degree, I took two sculpture classes. I had scultped a fifty pound marble sculpture in Sculpture I, the previous quarter. We were within four weeks into the quarter of Sculpture II and I was failing miserably at a cedar wood carving. (Or maybe it was my welded sculpture… too much math involved in measuring the right amounts of acetylene and oxygen, while holding a blow torch.) Either way, time was running out for the assignment; three sculptures by the end of the ten week quarter. Or two sculptures, if you carved a large piece of marble that would count for two grades.

The first time Mr. Barnett approached me, I couldn’t believe he was even suggesting it. He was going to entrust me with a 300lb block of marble after the 10lb “Two Slugs Making Love” fiasco from the previous quarter? First of all, it was not intended to be slugs at all. Let alone slugs having sex! Second, it was not supposed to be ten pounds. We were supposed to hollow out the inside. I failed miserably at that. The whole class was making bronze sculptures. Do you know in order to do that, you have to make a cast from a very sticky wax material? Did I mention how sticky this stuff was? When you see all those crude bronze sculpture of weird figures, now you know why they are weird looking. When you see Brancusi’s “Bird in Space” you should be filled with awe and reverence for his skill.

Well, I made a sketch. (Please don’t ask me, I have no recollection of what it was really supposed to be. I’m actually still embarrassed by it.) But I do know it was not slugs… making love. We were supposed to have our designs approved and I missed the deadline to turn mine in, but Mr. Barnett told me, “You’re really good. I trust you.” (Famous last words.)

Our class met one night on the patio outside our studio for the big melting and pouring of the bronze. Our wax prototypes were cast in plaster with holes reaching down to the sculpture. The wax was melted out and the hot liquid bronze poured in. Thankfully, we got to take our molds home with us and work on polishing with Dremel tools. I had dreams of mine being smooth like “Bird in Space” (my favorite sculpture even to this day.) Hahaha. That didn’t happen. Critique Day was fast approaching and there really was no hope for mine. At the big reveal, Mr. Barnett, I could tell, was trying not to laugh. He said, “What is this? Two slugs making love?” (I returned it to the fire after receiving my grade of a C.)

“Bird in Space” by Brancusi

I couldn’t understand how he still had faith in me to not make a disaster of the marble he had saved from being delivered to the Tums factory. After a couple more times of trying to convince me, I reluctantly said yes. And I was given the block that another classmate had abandoned. I worked on it, using the power chisel for a few classes thinking of one thing and I was about to start a split to separate two sides, when a flash of a girl with long hair sitting holding her knees while laying her head down, flashed into my mind. Whoa! God showed me what lay inside the stone! Maybe that’s how it happened for Michaelangelo. It was amazing! I quickly got some modeling clay and fashioned the figure I saw in the vision and then began to round out the stone until the girl was free. It took six weeks. And every time I was out there on the patio, a campus security guard lady would drive by to see me working on it. I was asked a couple of times to turn off the power tool because classes were going on and I had to pull out my hand tools. By Critique Day it was complete, all except fingers on her hands, where I had run out of time. I wasn’t sure what my grade would be. But I shouldn’t have been. I received a double A.

Before the completion of the sculpture. 1992
The only picture I can find that is not in ‘the cloud’ of final product.

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