Entry 5

This morning we made two three foot long workbenches to stand on so I could reach the top of the sculpture with large tools. We also started on two large hand paddles so I can pack and form the large surfaces of the clay. After that I made two large trowels for shaping the clay out of stainless steel scrap. I’m getting quite a collection of tools now but my set is not complete.  I gathered some hardwood scraps from one of the wood carvers so I can make some of the wooden tools I need. The wood is similar to mahogany so it should perform well for strength and flexibility.

We continued to pack another 700 pounds of clay on the sides of the lower cranium, the back of the cranium, the jaw and the mouth. I smoothed out the top of the cranium fairly well to the point that it is close to the shape and texture that I want. Much is yet to be done on the overall form and face.

This afternoon Barry and I went to two large enclosed shopping spaces to locate hand files, sponges and a good quality carving knife. It reminded me of a covered flea market that I visited in North Carolina this early May. This place was much bigger. Each of the buildings was an entire city block square with stuff in every shape, size and color. Negotiating prices on things was a new way of shopping. Again, the taxi drive back to the park was the most intense part of the trip. It’s a constant game of chicken with nerves of steel. My right foot only tried to hit the break four or five times.

I’m still giving my right hand a rest. Anti-inflammatory medication and bags of ice are my constant companions.

My studio assistant Pong worked the whole afternoon by himself on the portrait “Visionary.” During dinner Ryan from Aruba asked me what the piece meant. I told him the story of a proposal that I had written about four years ago and how I had submitted it to different agencies to try to get funding. There was no success at funding but I told him about what inspired the original idea behind the work. At first I wanted to create a series of monumental terra cotta and bronze busts that honored people that I thought were visionaries. In considering whom I wanted to honor I thought of MLK and Mahatma Gandhi. In May the symposium committee told me that they had accepted my application to come to the 9th International Sculpture Symposium. But, they wanted something figurative instead of the organically inspired forms that I had created over the December holiday break. I had two weeks to develop a concept that I was hoping to create on a monumental scale. Five days of those two weeks were spent in Kansas carving stone. Numerous days were involved with teaching classes and giving exams. In reviewing that four-year-old proposal I considered another visionary that I admired.  He was Don Miguel Ruiz who is the author of a book called “The Four Agreements.” After a few days of considering which person to portray I felt that I didn’t want to create a portrait of an individual. Instead I wanted to create a person in meditation. Who the person was is no longer important. Instead the act of meditation surfaced as the idea behind what I wanted. In the process of considering how I wanted to portray the person I referenced two of my favorite pieces that I’ve seen at the Arkansas Arts Center. The first was a monumental individual portrait from the work “The Burghers of Calais” by Augusta Rodin that was on exhibit in the early nineties.  he second was a monumental bust called “Matteo” by Daniel Rhodes that’s in the permanent collection at the Arkansas Arts Center. Both were somewhat bald or bald men. I took this as part of my queue and decided to eliminate the ears in the portrait so that the viewer would only focus on the expression of the face. Another part of my queue was from a life mask taken from one of the sculpture students. He shaved his head for the occasion of making a life mask. This life mask was used as a starting point for one of the two busts made for the committee proposal. Once the two portraits were complete I sent images to the committee. I didn’t know which they had accepted until I stepped into the studio here at the sculpture park.

Posted in: Michael Warrick's Journal from China

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