“Torso Lying Down”
14” x 6” x 4”
This is a deliberate “miscast“ from a mold made for an upright complete torso. One of my studio practices is to create deliberate mistakes to see if the element of chance will produce something I could not possibly have thought of myself. Sometimes I could even combine “chance” with a little skill to produce some marvelous results. At some point I realized if I mixed concrete a certain way, it would become ropey and look a bit like guts. So, I poured some ropey concrete into this mold to see what I would get. This piece is the result. After I opened the mold I was pleasantly surprised to see this. But I was even more pleased when I saw the piece lying on a workbench waiting to be mounted on a conventional rod and pedestal in a vertical position. So instead, I cut a piece of steel and presented it lying down. This piece is the result of a blending of intention, skill, knowledge of materials and chance right up to the last moment of deciding how to present it.
34” x 14” x 12”
This is my largest stone sculpture to date. And it was my first work in stone. Ever since I carved it in 2001 I have been trying to get back to doing work like this on a bigger scale. I have even dreamed of buying the quarry where the stone came from. As I write this story in 2023 I have the best studio of my entire career. And yet, I can not carve stone in it. And so, this project will still need to wait.
I need outdoor space and tools. Big tools. And a place to put them when it’s finished.
What makes this piece so appealing to me is the combination of aspects of the work revealing how it takes shape. While at the same time, because this type of sandstone has layers that are fragile it is falling apart in places revealing how it is disintegrating even at the same time it is becoming.
The material itself is beautiful.
Another thing I like about this piece is that it combines my interest in Western art’s focus on solid form and the beauty of the human form with my experience of Chinese and Japanese art and it’s celebration of entropy and the natural beauty of materials. I have included two of my favorite Classical Chinese paintings that I feel portrays these principles.
I’ve seen pastiches of Eastern and Western Art, and I usually don’t like them. The usually somehow manage to have the aspects of each culture diminish the impact of the other and look week or forced. I just hope that isn’t what is happening here, and I just can’t see it.
I’ve been planning and preparing for years to get to a place where I can devote my best energy to making even bigger works with these intentions. Such is the risk of making art. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Head of Marsyas”
20” x 20” x 20”
This piece was commissioned by some folks who wanted a sculpture for their massage studio. Originally it had hands attached that looked a little like wings or flames coming out of the head. It was effective. I made a mold and cast it for them. However, I didn’t like the hands and took them off for this cast which I made for myself.
This piece was done 10 years after I closed my sculpture studio. However, another 20 years have passed since then. It’s been my hope ever since then to “get back to doing more sculpture.” This piece gives me hope that I will still be able to do it.
Plaster and Paint
30” x 10” x10”
Occasionally I would make small rubber moulds of my sculptures. I made moulds for 2 reasons. The first reason was that I could cast the sculpture in a more durable material than clay. The second reason, though, was to use the mould to create new sculptures more quickly than starting over from scratch. The flexibility of the rubber meant that the mould would easily bend, stretch, warp or overflow or just distort the original shape as the casting material was poured in to the mould. These somewhat random distortions or “mistakes” were often more interesting than the original forms.
Furthermore, having multiples gave me the freedom to experiment with them in various ways. For example, I could paint them. Painting a sculpture seemed radical and traditional. It seemed radical because all the sculptures we see from antiquity are presented the way they are found, without paint. And yet I know from studies that most antique statues were painted by their contemporaries.
This idea of radical and traditional acts was a development that came out of my work ten years earlier but has been part of my process ever since.
“Black, Shiny and Hard”
30” x 12” x 12”
My, how much can change in 20 years. When I created this piece nearly 25 years ago it was considered “racy” “erotic” and weirdly…”homoerotic.” Now, 20 some years later it is hardly noticed and certainly not something that needs to be hidden in the back room. In fact, I would argue that it is a kind of testament that the culture wars may have some positive results for the culture after all.
On the one hand there are warriors on the left who would be inclined to say this piece arrogantly defines a narrow view of masculinity. It might be seen as coming close to being toxically male and much too narrow or singular in its gender assertions thereby limiting the possibility of gender fluidity and non-binary forms.
On the other hand, there are those who would see this as perverse especially if it were displayed in public where children might see it. The nude male body, especially with an erect penis would simply be seen as sexual to the exclusion of everything else and that would be bad, possibly even damaging to those that saw it.
Well, what I experience is that an increasing number of people are much less inclined to be offended or worried about its traumatizing affect even though it is sometimes in a very public space seen by many people, albeit not many children. And, for whatever reason, the many people in my space who prefer to be referred to with they/them pronouns also do not seem moved to complain. In fact, an increasing number of people notice it’s classical balance of harmonious proportions, even noting that the penis is too small to be porn.
Interestingly, more people also comment on its lack of head and limbs suggesting a lack of familiarity with a long tradition of displaying sculpture that celebrates the beauty of the torso either as a result of damage such as with antiquities or by design with such artists as Michelangelo and Rodin.
In any case, the piece seems to simply be mostly inert, neither provoking indignation or disgust. Some artists might see this as evidence that there piece is week or mediocre or just irrelevant. I have produced plenty of mediocre and irrelevant work. This is not one of them. Instead, to me it is evidence that the culture wars have left us all a little more tolerant and open minded. Or perhaps we are all just little more jaded.
12″ x 12″ x 12″
This cast from a mold that features an entire torso. Once in a while I mix material such as plaster or concrete to pour into a mold. After the mold is full I sometimes have extra material that did not fit into the mold it was intended for. So, rather than pouring it out in a bucket to harden and then discard I pour it into another mold and tip the mold so that the material runs into the desired part of the mold to harden. Sometimes these “over pour” castings are more interesting than the original, intended piece.
Ever since I first discovered sculptural fragments of ancient sculptures in museums, I have always loved sculptural fragments. Arguably, it’s a little weird to deliberately create them but sometimes the results are undeniably thought provoking or just downright aesthetically pleasing.
As I write this story in 2021, America seems to be obsessed even more than usual with the ass. When I was younger it was all about the breast. But thanks in part to Kim Kardashian and twerking tiktoks, the Ass is enjoying an elevated status in pop culture and art these days. Who knows what will be next. So, little did I know when I cast this piece of ass 25 years ago, it might end up as a feature in my collection for a group of admirers a quarter of a century later.
“Male Torso Fountain”
36 x 10 x 10”
During 1999 and 2000 I had a brief period of doing some sculpture. I was also doing paintings at this time which featured fragments of figures to celebrate the beauty and power of the torso. Most of these paintings did not include heads or limbs, almost as though they were paintings of ancient ruins. Like this sculpture they did not look gruesome or macabre.
It makes sense that I would have done sculptures at this time because they were sculptural paintings. This piece was cast from a mould made from a torso I sculpted in clay. For this particular piece I mixed the concrete with potting peat to create holes and cracks. This not only gave the piece an ancient look, it also meant that if I pumped water into it, the water would ooze out everywhere rather than coming out all in one place like a cut pipe. I only made a few versions of this including one that is not a fountain.
Mixing peat with concrete is called “tufa” and is used by architectural decorators to create aged concrete affects on architectural ornamentations. I have simply used it here to create a certain effect on my sculpture. The peat is easily washed out after the piece is unmolded.
Below is another cast from the same mold. This one is solid concrete that I “artfully” broke once it was out of the mold. I also painted the sculpture and mounted it on a steel post and concrete pedestal.
“Mini Male Torso”
20″ x 6″ x 4”
I always wanted to do sculpture in stone and concrete. So far, I just have not made time to do it. Instead, about every 10 years I do something small in clay. In this case I actually ponied up the money for a professional mold. And it was money well spent. The mold is very high quality and allowed me to make many castings. Of course I sold them but what was even better was that I could make so many different versions. I could pour different stuff in the molds and then when they came out of the mold I could break them in interesting ways or paint them or used various types of acid to stain them. What is posted here are just a few examples of what I did with the various castings.
10″ x 4″ x 4″
Breasts are incredibly charged body parts. As body parts they are of course the organ of sustenance for a mother’s child. However, they are also organs of sexual attraction and sexual experience. They are part of a woman’s identity. They are symbols of political and social liberation. They are also vulnerable to cancer and potentially challenging with respect to physical activity. They also occupy a disproportionate amount of some women’s thoughts about her appearance. Are they too small? Too big? Too visible? Too concealed? Too perky, too saggy and so on.
My first experience with being aware of women’s breasts was in the sixth grade. I was in the boys bathroom at school and remember some boys stuffing toilet paper in their shirts to imitate breasts and accusing certain girls of doing the same. They were both mocking these girls and expressing their own awakening sexual fascination with women’s bodies as well as their own fantasies about their own bodies and what was happening as hair began to sprout in various places and penises began to engorge at the thought and sight of breasts. I remember feeling a very unpleasant mixture of shame, confusion and of being left out since my relatively late-blooming self left me not even really sure what they were talking about. At some level it just looked like clowning around and yet I was smart enough to know there was something more serious and even a touch “dark” going on in the bathroom that day.
It wasn’t much later when I caught up and realized there was more to all of this than joking around with toilet paper and giggles. It was about a year or so later then, when I had my second significant “breast” event. My mother met and married my stepfather who took the family on a vacation. During our trip we stayed at a road side hotel with the kids in one suite and my parents in another. At one point, someone accidentally opened the door between the suites while my mother was changing her clothes. And there, just for a second was my mother’s naked breast in plain sight as she leaned over in the process of getting dressed. I was instantly and instinctively embarrassed and slammed the door shut. And even though that moment was probably only half a second long I can remember it as though it was yesterday. Like the experience in the boys bathroom, the moment was filled with so many strange and overlapping feelings.
Since then breasts have mostly been part of my life in fairly normal and predictable ways. I have been fortunate to have not had anyone close to me get breast cancer nor die from it. There have been a few close calls and an ex who had it many years after we split up, but even she survived it well without having a mastectomy.
The cast of this breast was an “over cast” in that I dumped some leftover concrete from another project into a mold and positioned the mold to cast just this part: the breast. What I think is worth noting here is that these photographs of this sculpture may in fact be the real art. I was conscious of how I was photographing this sculpture and have been thinking ever since there is a lot more I could do with this. I may include women’s hands, paint, different material and other objects. Since “the breast” is such a charged subject, there is so much that can and needs to be expressed.
These are not really sculptures. I never thought of them as art. But I include them here because creating these was an important part of how I learned about concrete and mold making. It’s also how I fell in love with concrete as a material and began to dream about making art with it.
I was 31 or so when I made these. I was working in a shop owned by a nutty old Italian guy who had a flair for business and an even flair for being an Italian but had no artistic skill whatsoever. He did own a shop making concrete statuary and art. He hired me to make sculptural originals in clay. He then has his team of guys make molds and cast them by the hundreds.
Once in awhile someone would want a custom project. In this case I designed and built the fireplace surround and other features for this house. I even cast these pieces and was involved with the instal. I went on to do some of this work for my own clients but did not love it enough to create my own business doing just this work. Still, without these opportunities provided for me by Marco I would never have have learned so much about concrete.
“Torso on a Stick”
8” x 4” x 4”
How do you display a small torso study in such a way that the presentation nuances the beauty of the small object and does not turn it into something else, like a bizarre sculptural barbecue?
One solution is to do what museums do and lean into the tradition: a small heavy cube to anchor the piece and a rod or stick to elevate the piece into space and thereby make it easier to observe as a thing unto itself. Combined with good lighting this solution can be quite elegant.
And yet, it’s also a little weird. For one thing, with few exceptions the art was never intended to be displayed this way by the artist. Of course, I’m not advocating that one crawl into a coffin and squint at the funerary works that were set alongside the corpse of a loved one in hopes of enriching their afterlife. Clearly some way other than the intended method of enjoying these works must be invented for our current needs that is a touch more convenient.
In this case I opted for something more expedient. The base is simply another blob of clay left over from creating the art. I then pushed a large nail into the soft clay and then forced the art onto the other end of the nail. The whole thing is quite fragile since it is unfired clay. Essentially it is held together by a coating of wax.
This piece was stolen from my studio somewhere along the way. And because it’s fragile it probably doesn’t exist anymore.
“Female Torso Table Scuplture”
12″ x 12″ x 12″
This is the first, and possibly the last, time I put a fired glaze on one of my ceramic sculptures. While the sleek durable finish of fired glaze is attractive, it is also thick. As such, it filled in and buried all the surface nuances of the piece.
As it turns out, I actually put a lot of my artistry into the surface marks on these pieces. The marks help establish movement and direction of your eye. They also help define or obfuscate the volumes. I say this with some surprise because until I glaze fired this piece and lost all the surface nuance, I was amazed at both how much the piece was diminished and how much I missed seeing the surface marks.
That said, perhaps for a piece like “Black Shiny and Hard” which is larger both in size and scale and is more about the singular presentation of itself, a thick durable smoothing glaze might be better.
In most cases I have since bisque fired them to turn them into ceramic and make them more durable. Then spray paint them. The spray paint allows me to paint deep into cracks and hollows and is so thin that even my fingerprints will still show. It’s also surprisingly versatile allowing me to vary the sheen and color creating a wide variety of effects from looking like something it’s not….bronze….to something just outlandish like solid pink. Oh…And it’s cheap.
20″ x 12″ x 8″
It is said that breaking up is hard to do. And I would agree. And the harder it is the more art it seems to generate. Maybe that’s why there are more love songs about breaking up than getting together. Maybe even more than songs about desire. Perhaps AI bots could do a quick research study on that subject.
This piece emerged out of an outpouring of paintings and drawings that resulted from my breakup with one of my life’s great loves. The situation was Shakespearean in its complexity and tragic conflicts. But like much of my live it was driven and shadowed by the blunt simple fact of poverty.
I was in my early 30’s and I was broke. When my peers were beginning to buy houses and certainly drive nice cars and provide a decent amount of financial support to their partners, I could barely afford gas for the old Toyota pickup I traded for a painting on cardboard. I still have a glitch in my git along from having to pump the breaks through the floor to get the thing to slow down. Stopping was an act of God.
But I was rich in energy, imagination and drive. And so, I produced nearly a career’s worth of work around this painful break up with a woman I loved dearly yet could not support.
What do the various parts mean? And how does the assembly of 3 pieces work together towards an expression of anguish and heartbreak? I have no idea. The head at the bottom of the middle piece certainly has an anguished look on its face and appears to be inspired by Edward Munich’s famous “Scream.” It was also a stretched and mutilated scrotum in some of the drawings and paintings that preceded it. And those hands with their dramatic gestures? Hmmm…take a peek at another famous piece for a clue…Picasso’s Blue period masterpiece, “La Vie.” Or is it Caravaggio’s hand in the “Calling of St. Mathew.”