A very cold day in January. A helper and I had spent Nov. and Dec. cutting into the Joe Brown Bronze sports sculptures to replace the rusted out steel armatures with Stainless. You see me here, along with another welder from Geo. Young and Co. ,welding steel fins onto the stainless extension tubes of the new armature, and then welding the fins onto the bottom plates.
When Willie, the master rigger at Geo. Young at the time, dropped the straps...The Moment of Truth...everything held. And then came the concrete to the level of the shoes, and the granite facing,
Photo credit: Ginny Naude, of Norton Art Conservation
It took 6 people 3 weeks to make a mold on this sculpture, by Heinz Warneke. The first guy who tried, failed. The chief difficulty was the undercuts. Carvers rarely give a dam about moldmakers, and so they carve tunnels into the mountains of their stone. Going in is the easy part. Coming back out...you'll need "a ball of string".
Plaster plugs, like the one by Dan's (a local Germantowner now an art teacher) right foot, is how we overcame the incredible undercuts of the sculpture, and worked our way out of the caves. If you look closely, you will notice a u shaped wire coming out of another plug under the chin. Just before the large mold wall was "thrown" on this side of the lion, a blob of clay was placed over the 1/8" wire to keep it separate from the large mold wall, to mark its place on the large mold wall so that it could be used to fasten the plug to the large mold wall, which would be turned vertical, during the casting process.
The guy with the black beard is Tom McGovern. He showed up at my studio one day, and we just started working on a project together (casting a tree trunk). Tom is a can do kind of sculptor, as well as being a professor of art. He worked at Uarts starting the foundry, then with me a little while,, and then ran the sculpture dept at Penn State. On fine day he called me up and asked if I wanted to make a mold on the Nittany Lion. Why not?
He and his wife hosted my crew (Dan and Denise) and I at their home to keep the costs down. We would go up to Penn State monday, work till friday, and then come back home. Denise took many of the photos that I have of this event. It was very difficult, and wonderful.
About half way through the rubber mold prosess. Notice the plaster plug above the ear, the mold walls, and the registrations. We are about to throw the large front mold section. There is a lot of design that goes into making a mold. It is critical to understand "draft", "undercuts", and the direction of "the pull".
The Great Mother and The Great Doctor, bronze,1955, by Waldemar Raemisch. Here is the Great Doctor group, with my wife Gina, who stands 5'3", to give us some idea of how big the sculptures are.
This is the old site of the sculptures, in front of the Youth Study Center on the BF Parkway, which is now the new site of the Barnes Museum Collection.
The two sculpture groups were apparently divided and cast as sections themselves to be shipped and installed here, on site. I developed the plan to cut through the welds of the two sculpture groups to reestablish the original smaller sections which George Young & Co. then trucked to the new site(The School Of The Future) in West Phila.
By cutting cleanly through the weld beads, they could be used as registration guides to position and reweld the sculptures at the new site.
The usual disaster struck half way through the project when it was discovered that the 2" by 2" square steel stiffening rods that had been cast with the bronze were Redoxed into red dust, bronze being the more noble metal. There was some serious wallet anguish going on at this point, which was solved by George Young Co. back filling the bottom plates with anchoring cement, and by little old me creating as invisible as possible attachment points between key sculptures... a difficult job that ended well.
Welding is the easy part. Getting into position to weld, with all your equipment, and with a good chance of being paid fairly for your work, is not so easy.
JP & Rocky
Well I couldn't help myself. I dropped a fork lift tine on my foot while repairing the base of this sculpture and installing a reversible mounting system, breaking my right toe. And so the crutches...which gave me this spectacular reach. Many thanks to my friend Thilo, who first demonstrated the pose for this photo.
The bronze Rocky started out as a movie prop sitting atop the PMA's steps mounted on a chunk of concrete with 1/2" steel nuts welded to the inside perimeter of the bronze base. Not what anybody could call a permanent mounting system. Of course the sculptor of Rocky wanted his sculpture placed somewhere permanently somewhere after the movie shoot was over instead of being melted down, but he apparently wasn't interested in supplying his sculpture with a real mounting system. And neither was anybody else.
When Rocky was installed at the Spectrum, it was done "down & dirty"...dirt cheap and typically irreversible...which led to the sculpture being damaged when it needed to be moved,
At this point I was requested to repair the sculpture and make it safe forpublic display.
Yours Trully, with Favorite Hat
Here is me sitting in the lap of the Great Doctor with my favorite hat on. I am also wearing my mala beads and red protection string. I will usually wear these under my shirt so as to not unduly alarm people on the street. When I am traveling to retreat, or just want to be, I will sometimes just wear them.
Giacometti's Gran Femme Debout, 1959-60, arriving in our studio here in Germantown in june,2007. Who would believe this?The box fit the sculpture perfectly, including a wedge botton piece in the box to accommodate the bend at the knees. This is correct. The sculpture did not stand upright, but was bent backwards starting at her knees. Gran Femme Debout, one of six, was sold at auction for 13.3 million dollars, and then discovered to be "damaged".
This is a long story, and I will write it out as time allows.
Gran Femme Debout
Andrew Lins and my wife Gina conferring about Giacometti's sculpture. Andrew is the chief objects conservator of the PMA, and Gina a very educated sculptor with a lot of training in the creative arts.
Here you can see the sculpture, mounted on the steel table-tower i designed, leaning backwards. This lean is the result of an unskillful repair, made almost irreversible by a mass of epoxy being poured into the les of the sculpture after 3/4 " stainless steel rods were welded in place at the knee level, where a failure of the sculpture apparently occurred
This is Henry Mitchell's"Running Free" horse sculpture at Drexel. Some wierd delivery truck knocked the tail off one of the horses twice. And then the sculpture had to be moved from one place on Drexel's campus to another. This is how I found the sculpture to bid on refitting the tail, and helping with the re-installation. The massive stainless steel tubes that served as armatures to support and mount the sculpture had been cut flush to the bottom plane of the feet. I have to admit, working on this set-up scared me more than a little.
I didn't finish with the installation of this job because the only week i informed the rigging Co. I couldn't be there is the week they chose to do the re-installation. Oh well, nobody is irreplaceable.