This bronze was created by pressing gobs of low fire water clay, without grog, onto my face...making a kind of fast and furious mold shape that I could place face side up on a table. Next, brush hot(210 to 250F) wax into this mold about 3/16" thick. Push and pull this shape around a little...or a lot, or wharever, till happy. Wash clay off wax, sprue wax portrait, and ceramic shell cast. Patina... liver of sulfur, with ferric nitrate, finished with Butcher's wax.
This Iron-steel sculpture began as a portrait, in clay, of a man named Chick who was studying to be a priest around 1982. The sittings ended before the portrait was finished, and I made a plaster cast from the unfinished clay at this time.
Also in the early 80's, as I carbon-arc cast the Portrait of Earnie in bronze I mistakenly picked up a chunk of steel and blasted that into the bronze cast as well. The small section of steel looked good. So I made a rubber mold,on the plaster cast of Chick, cast a wax on which I cast front and back plaster shells, melted out the waxso as to carbon-arc cast Chick's portrait in iron. This iron cast wasn't strong enough from the first round of blasts and drips of molten iron and the plaster shells of the mold were shot. So. I packed clay around the front the weak iron form, and kept blasting and dripping molten iron onto the back of it. Still not strong enough. So onto a shelf it went to be forgotten.
Years later, remembrance! More clay, more blasting and welding steel rod and rebar into the cast. Still no good. Back to the shelf.
Later still(2014), Michael Grothusen of Uarts announced an open call to the students and faculty of Uarts for "unfinished" sculpture for a show he dubs "Half Baked". At this moment, I am studying Lama John Makransky's comments on Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche's statements on the nature of mind in John's book"Awakening With Love"...and also Salvador Dali's paintings and his "paranoiac-critical method of creating them...specifically 'The Persistence of Memory', 1931. While turning all this over suddenly the unfinished iron portrait of Chick suspended itself on three columns above a vast ,gridded plane in my mind's eye. Wow!
So, I welded two steel rods onto the iron(there was already one sticking down at just the right height), darkened and scribed grid lines on a steel plate, drilled three holes, named the new sculpture "Persistence of Awareness" in honor or Dali, and put the now completed sculpture in Michael's show of unfinished sculpture.
Later on, as my study of awareness keeps deepening with the help of teachers and friends, I rename the sculpture:" Persistence: Awareness" to note the Tibetan Buddhist view that awareness-emptiness is a primordial quality of the nature of the mind, other qualities being spontaneous creativeness( a kind of cosmic pop corn machine), unimpedeness, a kind of naked honesty or clarity, and just plain flat out indescribable joy, compassion, wisdom, and on and on beyond imagination...a loving of life.
Please don't feel bad if you don't see all this talk in the sculpture. For me, this sculpture marks a convergence in my understanding of art and meditation.
JOE 2 X 4
A portrait of a woman factory worker in Chester didn't work out. As I was knocking the clay off the armature with a 2 X 4, an interesting pattern of ridges began to emerge. Round and round I went, sculpting the clay with the 2 x 4. In about 15 minutes the new sculpture, Joe 2 X 4, was finished. Standard procedure at this point is to throw a waste mold on the clay, and cast a plaster...which I did. The plaster cast sat around for some time until Issac Witkin mentioned that I should consider making a bronze of the plaster. This I did also, and took the bronze cast to Issac's studio in Pemberton, NJ , for his help to patina the bronze of Joe 2 X 4. I wanted to try a sodium hydroxide-nitric acid hot patina, which we did although i could only find Liquid Plummer in place of the base. After heating the bronze up and applying the NaOh- HNO3 solution, Issac yelled out"Watch Out, John", as a green gas started sizzling off the metal. We both ran the hell out of his studio. Nice reds and golds, though. Issac said he never saw a red like this.
Later on, a conservator friend, Ginny Naude, mentioned that sculpture should have more color. Turning this idea over, I noticed in a supply catalog an optically clear urethane plastic that was available with 3 dyes, red,yellow, and blue. Using Joe 2 x 4's rubber mold, I mixed up small batches of red, yellow, blue, and started to mix small patches of greens, oranges, pinks, purples, etc., and painted these patches into the open mold. When color patches covered the castable surface, I closed the mold and painted the two halves together from the inside.
Then, when a kid came in our studio during Post and asked me if this cast was made of bubblegum, Joe 2 x 4 became Joe Bubblegum.
Carbon arc torch cast bronze, 1982. This portrait of my friend Earnie started out as a terra cotta I modeled from life.I fired the clay and then made a rubber mold on the fired clay.Then did a wax, and then did a bronze. Didn't like it. Then did a wax, and then did two plaster shells on the wax, lost the wax, and then blasted blobs of molten bronze into the two separate plaster shells with a carbon arc cutting torch, and welded them together from the inside. If you try this , make sure you dress for the occasion...Great balls of Fire!
Ductile Iron, 1982. Modeled from life with a traditional Al wire armature and low fire clay with no grog. Steve Braff, my 2nd floor neighbor who happened to be a yoga instructor, sat in the full lotus in the middle of his living room floor while I crawled around him modelling away. He needed a cushion for his left knee. There is also a bronze and aluminum cast of this sculpture...which I wrote about in my artist statement.
When Joe 2 X4 was around 2 years, a conservator friend, Ginny Naude of Norton Art Conservation, mentioned that sculpture should have more color. Turning this idea over, I noticed in a casting supply catalog(Polytek Development Corp.) an optically clear urethane plastic that was available with 3 dyes, red, yellow, and blue. Using Joe 2 x 4's rubber mold, I mixed up small batches of red, yellow, blue, and kept mixing... small patches of greens, oranges, pinks, purples, etc., and painted these patches into the open mold. When color patches covered the sculpture's castable surface, I closed the mold and painted the two halves together from the inside.
Then, when a kid came in our studio during Post( Philadelphia Open Studio Tours) and asked me if this cast was made of bubblegum, Joe 2 x 4 became,,,Tra La La... Joe Bubblegum.
Joe Night Stand
And if you just want to fool around, get yourself a low heat light source of some sort, put it inside Joe Bubblegum, turn out the lights and...Tra La La... Joe Night Stand.