A few years ago I began exploring a different approach, making one-of-a-kind castings from original sculptures that I executed in redwood. You could call this approach the “lost wood” method, where the wooden original plays the same role as the wax in the standard “lost wax” method. To make the ceramic mold that the molten bronze will be poured into, the wooden piece is dipped into a liquid ceramic slurry a number of times until a thick coating is built up. The whole thing is then baked at high temperature until the ceramic is vitrified and the wooden piece is burned out, leaving a void in the mold that will receive the bronze.
The difference between these two methods has a profound effect on the esthetics of the resulting sculpture – the medium is the message, so to speak. The lost wax method economizes on the bronze in the sculpture because the walls of the sculpture can be kept to a few sixteenths of an inch in thickness. Many people are surprised at how light a big bronze piece, which looks solid, really is. Not so with the lost wood technique. Since there is no rubber mold, the mass of the piece is exactly the same as the mass of the original – if the wood is one inch thick, the bronze will be one inch thick. It doesn’t take many cubic inches of bronze in a piece before it becomes immovably expensive.
So the lost wood piece must be crafted out of wood that is very thin. That, in turn, means that it will be composed of flat pieces of wood. That requirement sacrifices one of the great strength of bronze casting: its ability to reproduce any shape, however torqued, twisted, and detailed. It is that stricture on the creative process that generates its unique esthetics, for there are radically fewer ways of creating a powerful shape out of flat pieces, than there are if one is free to work in any direction without limitation.
This limitation fits my own inclinations, for I found early on that if I had a complete spectrum of tools to work with the resulting piece was overworked and tedious. I found, for example, that if I restricted myself to black and white – no color – my flat works were far better. Similarly, I worked for years in stone, where I had no control over color and limited control over shape. The limitations of the lost wood bronze casting technique feel comfortable to me. I need to work and rework every idea in my mind, being ready to cast aside any that cannot be executed within pretty severe limits. Fortunately, I can see the piece full size before I cast it, so ideas that seemed promising can be discarded when the reality fails to measure up. With material as durable as silicon bronze, one must avoid creating a ghastly mess, for the mess will be around for very long while.
Recent gallery representation:
2011 One Man Show, Waban Library, Waban, MA
2011 One Man show, Highfield House, Falmouth, MA
2010 New England Sculptor’s Association Annual Show, Endicott College,
2010 Mill Pond Gallery, Concord, NH
2010 -- present Cape Cod Art Association, Barnstable, MA
2010 -- present Falmouth Art League, Falmouth, MA
2010 ArtExpo New York
2009 Red Dot Miami