Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Post # 3 of three: THE CRUCIFIX

     My good friend and genius engineer Jim Mouton had followed me home one day some years ago.  That is what happens when your name is plastered over the side of your truck.  He had wanted to meet me, had heard of me through friends in Porter Corners, where we both lived.  I think I told how Jim designed the Crucifix armature to have a plate bolted to the studio floor with a steel tube welded to it.  A slightly smaller steel tube fit into this and the armature super structure was welded to this.  The actual figure skeleton was a separate part that fit into three locations on the structure- two hands and one foot.  This allowed disassembly when the time came to mold the front AND back of the piece.
     When the sculpting was finished, the committee from New Jersey was invited to come and see the piece in order to approve before mold making and casting. This group of people was wonderful to work with. With the help of friends I winched the armature with clay attached up into the studio staircase in order to achieve the 14 foot height we would have. When the committee arrived the sun came into the studio and it was an incredible sight.  With minor changes it was decided to move ahead.
     All molding and casting were done right here, and I had complete control over the finished piece.  Bonded bronze was the material chosen, so it was a matter of painting the resin and bronze powder mixture into the mold.  This is of course more involved, with not only fiberglass in the layers, but steel tubing from hand to hand to facilitate strength.

     Tico Vogt made the crucifix itself.  They wanted a hand hewn look, and this is what we did.  Tico was great to work with, and he got some stares on the road from his shop to my place.

     The Crucifix was designed to be moved around the church to a number of locations, and the figure itself is removed for the Easter season.  I worked with the architects to install stainless steel tubes in the floor which were just slightly large than the tube we installed in the cross.

     This project was one of the most fascinating and rewarding things I have ever done.
As I think I have said, another copy of the crucifix was purchased by St. John the Evangelist Church in West Chester Ohio.  This time a local shop, friends I had met at a conference, built the amazing cross.  Maple with purple heart wood inlaid as an outline of the cross shape. The edition was planned to be six copies, but the mold failed after only three.  The #3 in the edition is here now waiting for a home. There will not be any additional copies.

     More very soon.  I may put off the Mary and Joseph posts to get in some sculpture (well, art) news. Please stay tuned!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A departure

Just to break away from the plans a little bit;
     I just became aware of the fact that an artist had created a statue of Lucille Ball for her hometown of Celeron, NY.  It has been an eyesore and a bone of contention ever since, a number of years now.  People have taken sides and the opposition has a blog called "We love LUCY".
     The artist is quoted as having said it was "beyond him", the project, that is.  I wanted to offer some ideas so this can never happen to anyone else! As a sculptor, you simply never want to pull up with the truck and have a client say "What is that?" Likewise, as a committee member, you never want to be sitting home and wondering what the piece will look like. There are ways to avoid this.  This entry will be from the committee/client point of view;

#1 A design should be presented in scale model form for the individual or group to examine.  This is normally done with the help of a Design Contract.  Simply an agreement that lays out what the artist will do and what the client will pay. When the models, (and I say models, I provide three) are presented you will know whether the sculptor has in mind what you had in mind.  You cannot assume that a sculptor can work in large scale unless they have a portfolio of large work.

#2  If the client is pleased with a design, it is time to enter into a Fabrication Contract.  The sculptor outlines what he will create in terms of design, materials, scale, medium, deadline and price. Payments are made as the work progresses.  THIS NEXT STEP IS IMPORTANT.  The client is called in to examine and approve of the original clay sculpture.  In this way, a piece would never be molded and cast (which costs in the tens of thousands of dollars) in the event that it is not acceptable to the client.
What you should see when the sculpture arrives is a bronze version of what was approved in the clay.
A final payment is always held back until delivery.  Satisfaction is guaranteed.

     I have heard numerous scary stories over the years from people who have commissioned artwork in the form of stained glass, paintings and sculpture which fell short of what the client imagined.  This gives all artists a black eye.  In my view it is criminal to sell someone something sight unseen and expect payment.  In this case "Scary Lucy" is the most egregious.  This wonderful woman was absolutely gorgeous, and I refuse to re-print the picture of the sculpture I saw online.
     I was pleased to learn that the City has secured another sculptor who will "repair the piece". I offered Manzi Studios' services, but was too late in my contact with them.  Good luck to Celeron.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Manzi Crucifix Part two of three

     An inordinate amount of time has passed since the Crucifix post #1.  To summarize, I was chosen from a field of 27 sculptors from the East Coast to create three sculptures for St. Joseph's Church in Millstone, NJ.  My good friend Jim Lewis of Icarus Furniture in Troy had put me in touch with the committee when he heard of the commission.  I thank Jim so much for this, as it changed my life.  Also for this help and hands on assistance when I needed him over the years. Thank you, Jim!

     When I attended the first committee meeting in Millstone I expected to be asked to design and create a St. Joseph statue. I had with me a slide show of my Goddess figures in stoneware, as these (and a few small works from childhood and college) were my only religious pieces prior to that time. The committee was a wonderful group of dedicated people led by Balbina Faini. Halfway into the meeting I was taken aside and asked whether I would have an interest in creating also a life sized crucifix figure. I was not prepared for this, but felt very fortunate to have been asked, and that must have showed.

     The committee chose one of the three models, or maquettes that I made, and I was able to explain my choices for pose and expression based on the Zugibe research.  I shared everything I had found with them.  My good friend Jim Moulton agreed to design an armature for the figure so that I could not only work from all sides, but turn the piece effortlessly on its base.  We formed and welded the armature at his studio in Porter Corners.  The frame allowed the figure itself to be removed when it was time for mold making and casting.  It all worked just as planned.
The armature was conduit pipe for the figure
and steel for the superstructure.  Small pipe fit into larger pipe installed on the floor
so that the entire thing could rotate 360 degrees.  Here is a shot of the maquette
next to the piece being made.  I chose CHAVANT clay, the Rolls Royce of modeling
clays, for the project.  Le Beau Touche type.  Marvelous. See box after box of Chavant
on the right of the armature picture. Here I have been applying clay.  One of the best parts of a project.

Continuing the sculpting. It was decided that
Christ, who 'sat at the right hand of God", would be looking up at him in his last moment of life.
With his right hand he would be holding onto precious life (the clenched fist).  With his left he would be reaching for his Father, for his destiny.  He asks "Why hast thou forsaken me?" And so he is speaking at the moment of death. My design differs from many that have been made over the millennia since the event in that Christ is alive, and not portrayed with his head slumped forward in death.
          The nails, which would have been hand made and used on an important figure, are placed exactly as Dr. Zugibe has proven they must have been to hold a fully grown man. There is only one location where this is possible.  Most people, still today, believe the Barbet research from the 1940's.  I have found it very difficult to change any minds over this issue.  I retain all the images, experiments and etc. that Dr. Zugibe sent me, which served as the basis for my design.
A very happy camper after being chosen to design and create not only the St. Joseph in life size, but a Mary with the Infant as well.  Loading "Papa" kiln at Skidmore College.  See Mary and two Joseph models.  They chose the one on the right so we could have Joseph the Carpenter at his workbench.  Replaced stone bench with one made of wood.
The large piece in this kiln?  Of course, by Tom Schottman.

More coming soon. The remainder of the crucifix project and the Mary and Joseph figures in progress, built hollow in stoneware and fired (!), all at Skidmore.