Critique Collective

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Tag: sculpture

Donald Gialanella Repurposes Everyday Objects as Monumental Public Sculptures

An eclectic restlessness fuels Donald Gialanella’s artwork as he reclaims objects and conjures a nostalgic awareness of the cultures in which he is embedded. Gialanella is known for his use of household objects such as spoons, pots, and pans in constructing monumental public sculptures. In his private work, Gialanella goes so far as to compare the reuse of objects in an artistic setting to Buddhist reincarnation. The works pair a shrewd sensibility for displaying the contemporary moment with commentaries on the universality of utilitarian objects to develop the kind of discussion that so unfortunately eludes many contemporary artists: pop art that thinks. Gialanella’s works are dizzyingly intricate, filled with materials loaded with cultural significance and masterful, poetic metalwork.

Gialanella, who holds an Emmy for his work on Monday Night Football and a BFA from the Cooper Union, lives and works in Los Angeles. Having taught internationally at Bilkent University in Turkey, Gialanella has returned to public sculpture. His sculptures can be found in Napa, CA; Pasadena, CA; and Albany, NY with a forthcoming piece to be installed at the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital on the campus of Stanford Unversity in Palo Alto, CA. Last year, he was included in shows at the ADC/Building Bridges Gallery in Bergamot Station, Santa Monica and the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Ana, CA. Gialanella’s artwork can also be found on his website.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us about your interest in creating sculptures out of recycled and reclaimed objects. Where did this inspiration come from?

Donald Gialanella:
I have been working with recycled and reclaimed materials for decades now and can’t put my finger on exactly why I’m drawn to these objects. What I can say is that I have a deep connection to working with odd assemblages of objects, and I enjoy act of shaping metal.

When I begin to work with these materials, I feel the juices flowing and enter into a kind of creative rapture. The process is beyond logic. I can begin working, and something poetic grabs me, and changes me, and the work begins to exist on its own terms. I am there as a medium to guide the process.

The inspiration to use discarded objects to make art started when I was a boy. I used to rummage around in the scrap box underneath my dad’s table saw. I would take these odd shaped bits of wood and glue them together to create little figures of eskimos, genies, knights and animals.

Looking at things differently is the role of the artist. Art reflects our culture and offers a new perspective about ourselves and the world we live in. When I see discarded objects, I think about them as raw materials for art. I look at trash differently than the average person.

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Paul Weiner:
In your LA BUDDHA and LIBIDO works, you introduce the two-dimensional painted surface to these reclaimed objects. I read The Buddha as a symbol, perhaps one for the Buddhist concept or reincarnation, in association with your way of giving new life to objects. Are you consciously constructing these symbolic webs?

Donald Gialanella:
The Buddha series serves as metaphor for the reincarnation of the objects that lived their initial lives and are returning in new lives. I used a two-dimensional or low-relief approach to these wall-hung assemblages.

The pieces explore the problematic juxtaposition of planned obsolescence versus modernity and substance over spirituality. It explores our relationship to materialism and probes how we look at permanence. What emerge are ideas that prompt the viewer to ponder environmental responsibility and our cultural relationship to waste and sustainability.

Art critic Dave Quick wrote about these works, “The genre is also a nod to Southern California multiculturalism. (Indeed, one of the area’s largest Buddhist temples is located in the San Fernando Valley not far from Gialanella’s studio.) All nine works are mounted on recycled plastic pallets, which hang on the wall and create space between the wall and the work to create a more three-dimensional, sculptural effect. The pallets themselves continue the metaphorical reincarnation — pallets that once carried other loads, now carry Gialanella’s creativity.”

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Paul Weiner:
What is your reasoning behind the use of multiple common objects, like spoons and gears, to create your assemblage sculptures?

Donald Gialanella:
The commonplace things we use every day are important elements in our lives: pots, pans, silverware, dog bowls, coffee cups. We have a relationship with them, a kind of emotional bond. We use them to nourish ourselves, to cook with, to put food in our mouths, and to drink out of. They are an extension of our humanity.

People’s connection to these mass-produced utilitarian objects fascinates me. I’m interested in their lifecycle, the almost living lifecycle of the modern object: production, marketing, ownership, and destruction in the end. That’s the typical story of these modern objects. I interrupt this story by using accumulations of these objects in my art.

By disrupting an object’s normal lifecycle, one looks at things differently. A spoon is not just a spoon anymore. A pot is not just a pot. The object’s normal lifecycle is interrupted by using it as an element in my sculpture. It is saved from destruction. It is frozen in time.

When it is embedded in an assemblage, you stop the moment. You see it as a memory of objects that nurtured you all your life.

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Paul Weiner:
Your Youtube account, livesteel, features a wide variety of videos from your own art exhibitions to bison running from a volcano and a mysterious space ball dropping on Namibia. Some of the videos on the odd side have gone viral, gaining millions of views. Is this some kind of elaborate ruse, a foray into video art, or are these just videos you’ve taken and compiled out of your own interest?

Donald Gialanella:
The Youtube channel contains an eclectic mix of videos that range from a slightly skewed look at natural phenomena to some not-so-mainstream people at the fringe. I do think of them as video art.

The content is hard to categorize, as some are satirical send-ups or cartoon-like puns, some are re-edits of available footage, some are raw video of events I shot, and some are elaborate video productions involving a crew and post-production facilities.

These videos are both an offbeat way of telling stories and a way to illuminate environmental issues I am concerned about.

It all started when I photographed a desiccated dead dog I came across while hiking in the high desert of Taos, NM. I put a move on the still photo and posted it as a short video on Youtube. It got a million views and was embraced by the cryptozoologists and conspiracy theorists alike. I made some obvious parodies after that which also garnered big views, the humor in them being largely ignored by people looking for proof of the existence of monsters and aliens.

One section of the channel is dedicated to my art videos, showing a glimpse into the creative process as well as time-lapse creation of artwork, painting videos, welding, art events, and commentary.

 

Paul Weiner:
The sculptures seem to take on the influences of the previous uses for the objects you incorporate, intrinsically loaded with cultural values. As such, the places you find these objects impacts the meaning of the work. What are some of your favorite places to find the objects you use for your sculptures?

Donald Gialanella:
I am always on the lookout for materials where ever I go. It’s a bit of an obsession. House sales, garbage cans, the side of the road, flea markets, auctions, auto repair shops and scrap yards are all places where I find interesting objects. Sometimes I buy things in bulk, a gross of spoons or coffee creamers.

A toy drive was held at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital to gather hundreds of toys needed for building the assemblage cow sculpture I’m creating. The drive yielded seven very large boxes of toys that ranged from matchbox cars, dolls and action figures, to transformers, Legos, animals, and Sponge Bobs.

The toys then have to be processed in order to be able to use, meaning I have to remove all batteries and sort by size, color and material. This makes the search for a particular shape and color toy much easier during the application of the toys to the cow armature, or what I call populating the surface.

A Los Angeles filmmaker, Scott Trosclair, is making a documentary that shows the entire process of building the cow, from inception to installation.

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Paul Weiner:
What originally drew you to creating public sculptures and expanding out from the commercial gallery art scene?

Donald Gialanella:
Twenty years ago, commercial galleries were the main outlet for art sales. Today, that has changed. It just doesn’t make much sense for an artist to give away 50% or even 60% of his sales to the gallery. With the visibility afforded by an online presence, the artist can now present their work to a large audience more affordably than brick and mortar gallery prices. It’s a win/win situation for the artist and their clients.

When I lived in Taos, I met artist Larry Bell, who had studios in both Taos, NM and Venice Beach, CA. I remember him referring to galleries as “upscale consignment shops.” That about sums it up.

However, there is a clear distinction to be made between commercial galleries, the consignment shops if you will, and the academic/museum quality galleries that show cutting-edge work and site-specific installations.

This past summer I was part of an exhibition, Art and Democracy V, at the ADC/Building Bridges Gallery in Bergamot Station, Santa Monica. Also, last summer, my work was included in a three-person show at OCCCA (The Orange County Center for Contemporary Art) in Santa Ana, CA.

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Paul Weiner:
You have quite a bit of experience working with art in a public setting, including your time working with graphics at ABC-TV in New York. Do you see any ways in which your current art reflects your older work with graphics, either in process or in thought?

Donald Gialanella:
My background in computer graphics has helped me greatly as an artist by allowing me to understand and use digital tools that can visualize and communicate ideas through compelling images.

The process of designing a TV project and a sculpture begin in the same way – with sketches to work out the preliminary ideas. There is nothing better than a drawing to quickly realize your design. It’s a valuable skill to be able to draw something in a simple and direct way that contains the basic form and layout of your idea.

Every creative endeavor can benefit from making early adjustments on paper before progressing to construction. It’s easier to use an eraser than it is to use a bulldozer.

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Paul Weiner:
Public sculptures are intriguing because they exist more directly for people outside of the art world. For instance, it isn’t uncommon to see children climbing around on public sculptures or people staring out of their car windows at them. Do you ever return to the sites of your public works to see how the public interacts with them?

Donald Gialanella:
I enjoy seeing my work in the public arena, but I usually don’t have the luxury of revisiting the sites after installation unless the sculptures are damaged, which is exactly what happened to a piece installed on Main Street in Napa, CA. After the sculpture had been up for over a year, I received a call that vandals had gotten on top of the stainless steel orb overnight and rocked back and forth until it was loose on the base and listing to one side. I had to fly up and repair it. The incident taught me a valuable lesson: you must over-engineer outdoor sculpture to be able to withstand the vagaries of public display.

That brings up another point. There is really no way to make a piece of art completely damage-proof. Public sculpture is susceptible from taggers and vandals 24/7. The only thing that can dissuade attacks is the very public and visible placement of the piece, adequate lighting at night, and solid construction and mounting. But, again, nothing is immune.

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Paul Weiner:
You must run into a wide range of structural issues when constructing these sculptures. What are the challenges of building a chassis or armature for some of these works?

Donald Gialanella:
When commissioned to do a public sculpture, it is imperative to have a structural engineer work out details of how weight and size stress the armature and base attachment. Public safety and durability are of paramount concern. Based on the engineering report, I use the specified gauge of materials and recommended welding certification.

The larger the sculpture is, the more challenging it is to construct. It’s many times more difficult to build an eight foot tall sculpture than a four foot tall piece. Safety in the studio is a primary concern as plasma cutting, welding, grinding, and manipulating heavy objects are all inherently dangerous operations.

A new project I am doing in Blue Springs, MO, involves two large pieces of 1/4” thick steel that weigh in excess of 500 lbs. each being delivered to my studio. The final sculpture will weigh over half a ton.

Paul Weiner:
How does your work function within a gallery space? Do you create the same kind of work for a gallery or academic space as you do for public works?

Donald Gialanella:
I approach public art design by focusing on the goals of the project, analyzing usage of the site as it relates to the local culture and community, and finally developing a plan of action to fulfill and balance the complexities of the project effectively and compellingly. My goal is to implement public art in a way that has a lasting positive impact on the local community. This is a much different process from mounting a gallery show.

A gallery show is usually a more personal statement with work that is created with an introspective motivation. It’s a chance to experiment and get feedback about new ideas.

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Paul Weiner:
Which artist, either historical or contemporary, do you feel has had the greatest impact on your work?

Donald Gialanella:
I had the privilege of learning from some well-known artists while I was earning my BFA at The Cooper Union in the late ’70s. My teachers read like a Who’s Who of contemporary art. I studied with Hans Haacke and Vito Acconci, Kenneth Snelson, Jim Dine and Louise Bourgeois. But the greatest impact on my career was made by Louise Bourgeois, who asked me to become her assistant after graduation.

I was both thrilled and apprehensive when Louise asked me to work for her at her home in a Chelsea brownstone. Always the wry provocateur, she tested my resolve on the first day. Ushering me up a flight of stairs, she opened up a closet door and pointed to an inside wall. “You will make a portal,” she said and then walked away. On the floor was a lone pickaxe. When she returned a half-hour later and saw the hole I put in her wall, she smiled and said, “You break through a wall without knowing what is on the other side?” She then added a terse, “Very good.”

I made several more portals in the walls of her house over the years. She used to scurry through these odd shaped archways to escape from exasperated gallery owners and art dealers.


Please view Donald Gialanella’s website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Woodturning with Roper

Michael Roper is a woodturner working Denver, Colorado and while teaching at Red Rocks Community College. His woodworking involves the creation of many vessels, many of which are hollow forms. Roper has worked with wood as a carpenter and woodturner for over twenty years. Roper’s wood pieces can also be found for sale on his website at http://www.roperwoodturning.com/.

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Ants Marching; ambrosia maple hollow form, 7″ x 4″


Paul Weiner:
How did you first get involved in woodturning?

Michael Roper:
I started woodturning in August of 2007, when I started taking classes at the Red Rocks Community College school of Fine Woodworking. After being a carpenter for almost twenty years, I decided I wanted to be a furniture maker. In the process of making furniture, I found that I like making the parts more then the whole project. Woodturning is very quick, and fits my personality perfectly.

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My Arborist Sneezed; box elder burl, 12″ x 10″

Paul Weiner:
What is your favorite kind of object to make?

Michael Roper:
My favorite things to make on the lathe are hollow form vessels, which is basically a vase or any form where the opening is smaller than the vessel. It takes years of practice to safely remove the wood inside of a form without going through the wall. My latest venture in hollow form turnings are my multi-axis hollow forms. This turning is done on two different axes so that the mouth of the vessel is not in the center of the top.

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Madrone Multi-Axis Hollow Form; madrone burl, 3″ x 3″

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about the physical process for starting your woodturning pieces.

Michael Roper:
I like to find pieces of wood that speak to me. What I mean by this is that I look for special pieces of wood that include burl, highly figured, curly, and crotch woods. These particular cuts hold the highest value and produce stunning character. I work with local Front Range arborists to get the pieces I am looking for, which is nice because I get to handle the pieces from the time they come down off of the tree all the way to the finished piece.

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spalted mango, 5″ x 5″

Paul Weiner:
Do you consider yourself a craftsman, fine artist, or somewhere in between?

Michael Roper:
Labels are a hard thing for me. When people ask what I do, I usually tell them I make stuff. Woodturning is my main focus right now, but seven years ago, it was making furniture, and five years before that, it was building homes. I don’t know what I will be doing in the next five years. I have recently started taking pictures, and I am really enjoying photography, but I would also like to explore ceramics at some point.

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Natural Edge Flamed Box Elder Burl Goblet with a Cocobolo Stem; box elder burl and cocobolo, 17″ x 5″

Paul Weiner:
What is your favorite type of wood to work with?

Michael Roper:
My favorite wood to work with is box elder burl. It grows locally on the Colorado Front Range. It has spectacularly tight grain, and sometimes you can find pieces with red streaks called Flaming. The difference in the colors between the flame and the creamy white of the burl make for some amazing looking pieces.

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Picasso Never Did That; bonsai root burl, rosewood, flamed boxelder burl, and spalted pashaco.

Paul Weiner:
What is the best part of teaching woodturning?

Michael Roper:
The best part of teaching woodturning is the look on a student’s face when everything clicks and comes together for that perfect cut. Woodturning is not as easy as it looks. There are a lot of things you need to know to get the perfect cut. Tool rest height, tool angle, and wood speed all play a big part in making a perfect cut, and it takes many hours in front of a lathe to learn and understand these things.

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flamed box elder burl, 1.75″x 1.75″

Paul Weiner:
It’s great to hear that you’re working in a variety of media. What have you been focusing on with your photography?

Michael Roper:
I started learning about photography because I didn’t like the way other people shot my woodturnings. The pictures would come out overexposed or blurry, and that just didn’t work. So I did the trial and error method for a long time. Then I decided it was time to take photography more seriously, so I took a few classes at the Denver School of Photography, and it was the best thing I could have done. They helped me to understand my camera, which helped me to take much better shots. All the shots on my website were taken by me.

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Volcanic; walnut vessel on a carved lindon base

Paul Weiner:
Do you have a preference for working with local materials?

Michael Roper:
I wouldn’t say I have a preference for local woods, but, as an environmentalist, I like using woods that would otherwise be thrown out or ground up for mulch. Most people don’t realize how diverse the forest is on the Front Range. When people think of Colorado trees, they mostly think of pine trees and aspens. Really, there are many more like walnuts, elms, sycamores, box elders, and russian olives just to mention a few. I do love working with exotic woods when I can find them.

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Life After Death; champion cottonwood natural edge vessel, 7″ x 7″

Paul Weiner:
Do you consider your woodturning creations to be decorative?

Michael Roper:
I do both functional and decorative work. My bowls are both beautiful and functional for salad or candy and nuts depending on the size. Being an amateur writer, I also turn a lot of pens. I like the feel of a fine writing instrument in my hand when I’m writing stories or descriptions of my work. Now, my hollow form vessels are decorative art pieces. They are not that functional, but they add an element of wood to any room they are in.

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Aliens Landing; front range ash hollow form sandblasted and painted, 7″x 7″


Please view Michael Roper’s work on his website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Evoking Suburbia: Corey Dunlap

Corey Dunlap is an artist working in mediums of installation and sculpture. He received a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston through Tufts University in 2013 and attended the New York Arts Practicum in 2013. Many of his recent works involve the arranging of objects from suburban settings. Many of Dunlap’s recent works are also made in collaboration with his partner, Bradley Tsalyuk. Additional images of his artwork may be found on his website.

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The Hot Stones Are Never Rough; massage table, silicon rubber, plastic, hot stones, 2013, collaboration with Bradley Tsalyuk.


Paul Weiner:
What are some of the most common themes in your recent work and how do you evoke them?

Corey Dunlap:
My primary focus is the mutability of the body, and I often employ a variety of techniques in order to facilitate that investigation. My research is intuitively structured, and it combines a collage of subjects including self-help culture, domestic identity, Flow Theory, virtual object hood, and multi-stable awareness. Currently, my work engages with corporeal objects which diversely confront both an optimistic and deprecating sense of self. These suburban objects derive from a culture whose desire is to better the self through the body, fluctuating on a scale between exertion and relaxation. I am interested in presenting these objects within a virtual-like setting. In this way, the viewer is allowed to engage with the physical structure of the object through a projected avatar body. I find the absent body to be a poetically rich subject.

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Cognitive Decline; commercial chaise lounge, play sand, casters, wood, 2013

Paul Weiner:
Many of your recent works are in collaboration with Bradley Tsalyuk. How does working with a partner impact your work?

Corey Dunlap:
Bradley and I have been partners for three years and have worked collaboratively for about a year. Our collaboration developed organically by finding overlaps in interests and expanding those interests through dialogue. We have worked in close proximity to one another for so long, and, therefore, it is often difficult to determine where an idea or technique originated. Because we also have a personal relationship, we are able to more easily challenge and push each other in an honest and direct way. Working collaboratively allows for multiple perspectives, and I feel that our independent work has strengthened through this intimate exchange.

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The Hot Stones Are Never Rough; massage table, silicon rubber, plastic, hot stones, 2013, collaboration with Bradley Tsalyuk.

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about your process for creating The Hot Stones Are Never Rough. Why did you choose to use the materials you used?

Corey Dunlap:
The Hot Stones Are Never Rough started while we were working with a flesh-like silicon rubber called Dragon Skin. It is a fantastic material. We had been playing with it independently and testing what forms could be created. Bradley had wanted to make a work that drew from spa culture, specifically hot stone massages. We were both attracted the sculptural gesture of this activity, which allows the body to be layered between the table and the stones by way of gravity. We were interested in taking the humor of this arrangement and skewing it into a surrealist replication, which ultimately produces a type of horror. We wanted the body to be represented through an economy of forms in order to highlight what we found to be so interesting and absurd about the activity.

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Weslo Pursuit E 25; custom printed banner, elliptical bike, electric motor, Corian tile samples, 2013, collaboration with Bradley Tsalyuk. An electric motor is attached to a Weslo Pursuit E 25 eliptical bike allowing it to continuously run.

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned your use of suburban objects. Suburban life certainly seems like a major motif in contemporary life. What do you think makes an object suburban?

Corey Dunlap:
I think most people are drawn to the idea of suburban life. It’s romantic and utopian. Most first world countries have some type of suburban area, but none to the extent of America. Like many people, I grew up in this type of community. I have always been attracted to the inherent messiness that underpins this otherwise pleasant environment. For a long time, my practice has abstractly employed a method in which the ideal or innocent is somehow contaminated through various means. Often, the objects I employ come from suburban spaces and are then acted upon to produce this type of multi-stable meaning.

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Weslo Pursuit E 25; custom printed banner, elliptical bike, electric motor, Corian tile samples, 2013, collaboration with Bradley Tsalyuk. An electric motor is attached to a Weslo Pursuit E 25 eliptical bike allowing it to continuously run.

Paul Weiner:
As a young artist, do you feel that there is much energy in the art scene today?

Corey Dunlap:
The internet has provided an unending stream of artists accessible through one’s fingertips. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by how much work, good and bad, is being produced. These days, it is expected that an artist has a website with documentation of their work, statement, resume, etc. The accessibility of it all provides an enormous amount of energy. In addition, I think a lot of people are grappling with technology and the internet as sources of content, and they are producing very intriguing works. There seems to be a lot of energy in this community, though I have my own apprehensions about it being used simply as a novel medium.

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Vision Board; metal, leather, polymer clay, magnets, printed image, 2013.

Paul Weiner:
What are you working on right now?

Corey Dunlap:
Right now, Bradley and I are working on a collaborative sculpture and photographic series. We have constructed a large half circle arch made of plastic tubing that is covered in sheer orange fabric. It closely resembles a sunset or sunrise. We plan to take this form to various outdoor locations and construct a simple illusion in which the sculpture sits directly on the horizon line. Lately, I have been thinking about minimalist sculptors like John McCracken and Craig Kauffman and their ability to transcend the body’s physical form. Independently, I am working on some flat, wall-mounted sculptures which are constructed from cotton padding and fauve leather. These forms draw from soft-play designs and gymnastic equipment and will be used to construct a space in which other objects exist.

Paul Weiner:
With taking your collaborative sculpture outdoors, you’re bringing art outside of the gallery setting. Do you ever find the dominance of white gallery walls to limit your artistic experience?

Corey Dunlap:
For us, taking these sculptures outdoors is dictated by both the limitations of the space available to us and what we deem appropriate for the project. The typical white wall gallery space often serves as a blank, non-specific space where artwork can exist independent of any specific context. In this way, the gallery setting can enhance the work. I think about it as a type of virtual space where anything can be called into existence. It is likely these outdoor sculptures will be photographed and subsequently exhibited in a gallery. Though these sculptures will exist in a natural setting during their making, this is just another element which informs the overall work.

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Fuck Me, Silly. fluorescent light, stuffed toy rabbit, wood, marble contact paper, 2012.

Paul Weiner:
Do you usually use found objects in your work or are these objects created or bought specifically for your sculpture?

Corey Dunlap:
All of the above. My process doesn’t necessarily start with an idea and then move into the physical. Sense can come after. The main elements of the works are usually created or bought specifically for an idea in mind, but sometimes I will find something that strikes a chord with my intuition and build out from there. I find it helps to collect an object first and live with it for a while before I dissect it. It’s like a puzzle in that way.


Please view Corey Dunlap’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Bernardo Morphs Automobiles and Living Beings into Sculpture

Bernard “Bernardo” Corman attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and studied at the Johnson Atelier in Mercerville, New Jersey. Bernardo’s sculptures are in the collections of many celebrities including Elton John, Stephen King, and members of the band Blondie. Many of his works incorporate anthropomorphism with the combination of cars, animals, and humans. Bernardo’s sculptures can also be found on his website.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you come up with the idea of blending cars with various animals, such as the fish in your Carp series?

Bernardo:
One of the first times I combined a natural entity with a mechanical one was in the early 90’s. I did a piece that I came to regard and describe as a retelling of the classical Centaur story from Greek mythology. In my version, a somewhat macho male morphs into a motorcycle instead of a horse. Prior to this piece, I had combined a car with the torso of a woman; I was influenced by a Magritte painting for that one. Like all of my best ideas, the image of the motorcycle/man just sort of popped into my head or swam up from my subconscious. I’ve always been a big fan of Surrealism and agree with the principle that some of the greatest ideas are the ones that occur naturally. I’ve had extremely vivid dreams and odd stream-of-consciousness type visions throughout my life, but most of the time I can’t manage latching onto the things I see or else it’s so complicated and personal that it would be impossible to translate into a visual medium. Being part of a certain age group also brought me into contact with various, shall we say, cultural type influences that left lasting impressions.

The goldfish idea was a similar process. I was working in my shop, and the image of a car-fish popped into my head. I made a small sketch and filed it away. About half a year later, I was in a library and found a beautiful photo book about Chinese goldfish. As I looked at the pictures, I remembered the drawing I’d made and realized that these fish with their long, flowing tails and fins and strangely mutated heads would make the perfect expression for that idea.

I didn’t actually set out to create an entire body of work like this, but in mid-career retrospect I can see that all of my best ideas and pieces just tend to naturally fall into this category.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you find yourself creating a massive bronze cast of a Cadillac morphed into a cornered shape?

Bernardo:
One very early piece of mine was a Caddy going around a corner. I called it CaddyCorner, and it had been influenced by old Tex Avery cartoons I used to watch as a kid where cars would twist and tiptoe around and things like that. One of them was seen by a person in a gallery setting who got hold of me later through some odd back channels. The people who contacted me were very secretive about who this guy was, but he did end up buying one of them from me along with another popular early piece called Big Ass Buick, which involved a car morphing into the obese rear end of a woman.

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I had been working for another local sculptor, making molds of his life sized portraits of fallen service personnel and felt confident about making larger things, five to six foot things anyway. By this time, I’d found out that my client was a well-to-do Kuwaiti businessman, so I screwed up my courage and sent an email suggesting enlarging CaddyCorner up to five or six feet. Lo and behold, I got a letter back saying he liked the idea and asked if I could make it life sized? I was pretty bowled over, but I knew I could do the job since the foundry I had been getting my work cast at had been making monumental-sized work for another nationally known sculptor.

After lengthy negotiations, we settled on a price and I started working on it. It took a year and a half to complete and involved lots of stages and processes. One stipulation was that he wanted to sit in it, so I had to engineer a hidden seat in the back. I tried to do as much of the work as I could because I wanted to feel like I had truly contributed to the piece. I made molds of actual car parts, carved foam, chased bronze, and did many other things as well. I was extraordinarily lucky to have landed the job, and I learned a great deal about my own field of art working on it. Because of its odd size and shape, a custom crate had to be built around it so it could be shipped overseas.

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Paul Weiner:
Your work has been collected by celebrities like Elton John and Stephen King, but your prices remain in the low hundreds in your recent Carp series. Are the prices low because of an art for all kind of philosophy or just out of market demands?

Bernardo:
A little of both, I suppose. I wanted the maximum number of people to have some of my art, so I priced them accordingly. The Carp are really one of my most accessible and popular projects. I used to think of it as my pet rock project, if you remember those. The great thing about the internet is that you can find an infinite number of items to look at and buy, which, unfortunately for makers, creates a sort of hyper-competitive market. I price the Carp so that people making choices can look at them as being both cool and attainable.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you aim for your art to evoke a sense of humor?

Bernardo:
Yes, for sure. Always. I think there’s definitely a real absurdity in a lot of things, especially the human condition, and I have tried to tap into that feeling kind of in a larger, cosmic sense. I don’t necessarily think having some underlying humor in art is a bad thing. Life is absurd, and sometimes the only appropriate response is laughter. I’ve tried to capture that essence in some of my work, sometimes to the point of perversity.

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Paul Weiner:
How has your style of craftsmanship evolved over the years?

Bernardo:
Well, my technical skills have certainly improved over time. Spontaneity can be a harder thing to achieve when you have technical skills. For me, the most fun and creative part of the process is roughing out the clay. All of the most basic creative decisions, for me, get made at that point. I do like to start with an idea or clear sense of what I’m looking for and work towards that. Once the model is roughed out, it becomes a matter of putting in the time and effort to achieve the level of detail I work up to. The devil’s in the details as they say. Once the clay is done, it really becomes rote. There’s various ways of making molds and casts and stuff, but by that point it really is a matter of going through the motions. I do always try to do the best work I can when I build molds and make castings. It’s a point of pride. With cast art, one step leads into another; when I’m sculpting, I’m thinking about the mold making. When I’m making the mold, I’m thinking about how the casting is going to work. If you do a lousy job in one phase, the next one’s going to be that much harder to accomplish.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell me a little bit about your favorite cars.

Bernardo:
Gee, I don’t think we have that much time! So many amazing cars have been built over the past hundred or so years. Obviously, I have a super soft spot for 50s cars. They were heavily influenced by the aircraft design of the day, especially at GM where Harley Earl ruled the design department. It was the ‘Atomic Age’ and everything was so heavily science fiction at that point. The concept cars from that period are even more outlandish and bizarre. It was actually a copy of a picture book about them (Dream Cars by Jean Rodolphe Piccard; Orbis 1981) that got me interested in doing automotive type art. A friend of mine brought it over, and that was it. I was hooked.
There are two cars from that period that really do it for me. The first is the Buick Lesabre concept car from 1951 and other is the sister car to that one that was designed and built at the same time called the XP-300, also by Buick. Those cars really set the tone and were extremely influential throughout the rest of the decade.

There were some stunning cars built during the 1930s in France by Bugatti and Figoni et Falaschi. The cars from that time are regarded as some of the most classic and elegant ever built, Italian sports cars, the list goes on and on really: motorcycles, vintage trucks, you name it. If it has wheels and an engine there’s probably something worth admiring about it.

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Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about the physical process you use to create Carp.

Bernardo:
I start by perusing pictures of the Chinese goldfish. For the first set, I was working out of the book I mentioned, I had gone ahead and got a copy for myself. After that, I try to decide which model of car I’m interested in. I have a lot of reference material as far as 50s cars go. So then I set up a small armature for the clay and get started. I try to keep both parts of the piece going along at the same pace. I move around, bringing everything up to a level of detail that I’m satisfied with. Detailing the car is a place that demands quite a bit of precision and concentration, also putting the ridges into the fins. It’s small, tight work, and it demands a lot of attention.

As I mentioned before, the part of the process thats most pleasurable for me is roughing out the clay. During that part, I make all the most creative decisions about how the piece is going to look ultimately. After that, it’s just having the patience to do the work required.

Once I’ve made the mold of the clay, I’m ready to cast some up. I use a two part plastic that is commercially available and a pressure pot to ensure I don’t get air bubbles on the surface. Once the piece is out of the mold, there is some minimal chasing, and then I paint them. For me, the Carp project was revelatory as far as color is concerned. As a sculptor making bronzes, I felt my palette was somewhat limited by the chemicals that are available. Greens, browns, black and white is what is mostly used. There are a lot of techniques to achieve different kinds of surface effects such as mottling, stippling, brushing, spraying, etc, but not that many color choices.

When I had the first set of goldfish, I was kind of like, “whoa..now what do I do?” so I went out and bought an airbrush and taught myself how to use it. It was just a real joy to explore all kinds of different colors, combos, and painting techniques. Lately, I’ve been trying to replicate natural coloration motifs like exotic birds, tropical fish, and even zebras. I really love that part of the process.

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Paul Weiner:
When did you first find yourself interested in cars?

Bernardo:
I always thought old cars were cool. I can remember when I was a kid looking at the front end of an old car and thinking it looked like a human face. Anthropomorphism is a principle that found its way into some of my work.

Really, though, the biggest shift for me happened when I was exposed to the concept cars from the 50s and 60s through the aforementioned book. I was just so knocked out. First I thought, “these are like rolling sculptures”. Then I thought, “these would make fabulous sculptures!” I spent a lot of time studying the design trends and styling techniques from that time. I did some designs of my own, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by what I’d done. Prior to the cars, I’d done a number of pieces in a style I had christened Pop-Surrealism. I loved Pop Art and also Surrealism, so I coined the term to describe my own work. Yeah, yeah. I know. I am actually taking credit for that phrase. True story, though.

Anyway, at some point, I realized I should combine my interest in old cars with what I had been doing previously, and that’s when I started producing the Pop-Surreal automotive castings. And the rest, as they say, is history.


Please view Bernardo’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Axiological Discourse on Material and Textual Metanarratives: Gabriel Weinstock

Gabriel Weinstock is an emerging installation artist working in Brooklyn, New York. He is a recent graduate of Bennington College, where he acquired a Bachelor’s degree while studying sculpture. Weinstock’s recent works focus on the shared personal experiences of viewer and artist, exploiting the various cultural metanarratives that define the meaning behind recognizable materials. His artwork is also available for view on his website.

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Paul Weiner:
When do aesthetic concerns come into play in your work?

Gabriel Weinstock:
In both my text and installation work I think a lot about order and organization, form and function. I think about aesthetics in terms of specificity and idiosyncrasy. I do not like work with aspects that feel arbitrary or that only serve some utilitarian purpose. There should be a reason for everything that is used and exists within a work. It is that specificity that makes a work of art cohesive; it is what makes a work a definitive statement. The viewer should have to confront and engage with the ideas that the work proposes. Specificity is what makes a work of art believable.

I like to make stuff, so I end up spending a lot of time on the various components present in my installations. Making helps give the work clarity, both physically and emotionally. Each aspect is distinct, even the forms that are repeated (like in Convex; undertow and Concave; undercurrent). I think that being able to see my hand in the work helps the viewer trust it. I like to use a lot of materials that feel nostalgic or familiar, like faux fur and how it seems to hint at a childlike fascination with other living creatures, textures, and stuffed animals. When these materials are used to create obscure objects rather than recognized forms, it forces the viewer to become idiosyncratically involved with it. These objects of concurrent natures force the viewer to search for its familiarity through referencing and remembering their own life experiences.

In my text work, my aesthetic concerns have everything to do with establishing their plausibility as documents. They are somewhat contradictory in nature: is it the documentation of raw information presented as art or is it art that is presented as a document? I have done a lot of research on cataloguing systems and antiquated record keeping methods, and this has become the basis of how a lot of the information is presented. How the words and numbers are formatted and the punctuation is used helps build connections and produce narratives. Because so much of the information is so personal, I think a lot about the material the text is on, or the location that it exists in to indicate that a narrative does exist and that the information is not random. This helps the viewer bring the work into their own experience.

People have called my work minimalist, and I am not averse to the comparison. A lot of my installation work is gestural, with parts pulling towards and away from one another, creating lines that divide and redefine space. And the conceptual ideas that drive my work often result in comprehensible lists. I think that this “minimalism” allows for my space and concepts to collide and coexist with the viewers.

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Paul Weiner:
To what extent do you find physical materials thought provoking? For instance, how did you decide on using steel and paper in From First, To The Last?

Gabriel Weinstock:
I think a lot about the materials that I use. All materials have value, so whatever is being used must be considered and assessed. Nothing can be secondary because the viewer will have some kind of reaction, whether they know it or not. I spend a lot of time trying different things out, seeing if they convey the idea that I am after. I think that a lot of art is self-defined, so, if something exists within the work that is not a part of the definition, it can muddle the whole thing. Our understanding of materials is multifarious. We see and understand their physicality: weight, color, durability, etc, but we also experience them through our cultural experiences: age/history, cost, location, etc.

The choice to use both steel and paper in From First, To The Last  was a product of this thought process. The paper came first. I had no intention of making the steel plates. I thought the paper would be the work. But when I had finished, it became clear that something was missing. Although the paper was acting the way I had wanted, it did not quite express the weight of the experience the work was about. The steel entered the work to express an idea that was very much so about its physicality. But together they express the conceptual notions of the work. The paper has a history; it was taken from my childhood home. My father had accidentally ordered the wrong paper for his office and it had been sitting around the house since before I was born. I found the steel. It was incredibly rusted, and I spent hours cleaning and then stamping it. Although these may be parts of the work that only I know about, I think they become a part of the viewer’s experience. On a surface level, the materials contradict one another, but when the work is further investigated they begin to work together, creating a narrative. The paper speaks to some archival process while the steel conveys the weight of time and its longevity.

 

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Paul Weiner:
What is the ideal forum for viewing your work?

Gabriel Weinstock:
I am interested in art that fills spaces. That is why I often think of curators as artists too. Curators are not just facilitators. They are artists that specialize in the art of collection. I try and work collaboratively with my friends who are interested in curatorial practice as much as possible. They see things that maybe I don’t, especially when it comes to group shows. An exciting aspect of working with curators is that the conversations often result in the consideration of non-traditional spaces and environments for the work.

Most, if not all, of my installation work is site specific, so it is helpful to work with someone who is able to push me to think about unfamiliar and, often, challenging spaces. In this sense, I try not to think in terms of ideal forums because every piece is different. Granted, while I am working, I place the work in a metaphysical space to help me make decisions about it.

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Paul Weiner:
Conceptual installation art often presents a challenge in that the viewers must comprehend the visual language an artist presents, thus placing a heavy onus on context. This can be further complicated by the inclusion of text. Do you think the universal themes of your work would be as powerful on display in an international exhibition in a country that does not speak English as a first language?

Gabriel Weinstock:
My interest in memory, at least consciously, came about while reading a translated version of Don Quixote. Since then, a lot of my work, or ideas for my work, were inspired by literary works. What is interesting about Don Quixote is that the entire form of the story is based on the recounting and translation of the story about the man known as Don Quixote. The reader is constantly evaluating the information given to him, questioning its authenticity and reliability. This relationship creates a character out of the reader. I strive for my work to create a similar relationship with the viewer. Translating texts really is an art form. It is the task of taking the idea and the sentiment that exists in one language and putting it into another truthfully.

Conceptual work is often experienced through multiple layers of narrative. Despite this, the initial idea originated at the artist, who is unavoidably a product of a specific culture. This subjects the work to being a part of that culture. This does not have to problematic. Although my ideas are reflections on the world I grew up and currently live in, the work I create is an attempt to bring attention to the commonalities among disparate experiences. The information I present is an effort to create characters out of the viewers. Dates and places are universally understood, and I think that these are able to be translated. I display dates and locations in a way that is intentionally under-mediated. I don’t want the viewer to (and I am not so sure they could) figure out what my narrative is. It is through their attempt to figure out the story that it becomes their own. Fragments from my own idiosyncratic experience are also someone else’s. This is what I am interested in.

I do think if I was to exhibit work internationally, I would be very conscious of content. I would either exclude English words, relying primarily on locations and dates or I would collaborate with a translator. I think that would be a lot of fun, creating a text work that was consciously and cohesively in two languages.

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Paul Weiner:
Many of your works seem to revolve around the concept of time. How did you settle on time as a theme?

Gabriel Weinstock:
I’m not sure if I ever “settled” on time. I have been intrigued by the notion of time for as long as I can remember. Installation art helped me realize and understand why it was important to me. Before installation, I had had a hard time articulating what it was about time that I wanted to represent, and I lacked the visual language to explore it with. It wasn’t until I created an installation in 2010 entitled Technology is Fragile that I began to develop an idea of how I could continue to explore time as a theme and concept. I think that my awareness of time, specifically in regards to family and genealogy, is a product of being adopted at birth. My adoption has never been a point of contention, but it has made me hyperaware and curious about one’s history and the importance of family both legally and psychologically. I think that my experience and my history is what has driven and influenced a lot of the ideas in my work. I have explored adoption explicitly in From First, to the Last and implicitly through the use of the archive and materials I choose to use.

What I like about time is that everyone experiences it. It exists for us both idiosyncratically and culturally. It allows us to have a basic understanding and connection with one another. Time’s universality presents a near infinite number of possibilities for its exploration and representation in artworks.

Time and art cannot be separated. It is present when we talk about specific art movements and is transient when we talk about the contemporary. I think time’s dualities and contradictions are part of what makes it so interesting. I feel them in my life and in my history; creating work helps me better understand these complex and confusing ideas and feelings.

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Convex; undertow.

Paul Weiner:
What was the process for creating Convex; undertow, both conceptually and physically?

Gabriel Weinstock:
The conceptual and physical aspects of my work tend to manifest simultaneously; they rely on one another and are continually in conversation. Completing a work does not mean that I fully understand its meaning. The conceptual ideas of the work shift and take on specific meaning as its physical aspects are evaluated and adjusted.

When I begin an installation, I tend to have an idea of the materials and pieces I want to include. I do multiple preliminary drawings, which helps me figure out what I need to make. This is how the conceptual notions of the work start to find specificity. My drawings help produce questions and find answers. For instance, how many faux fur medicine balls should I use in the installation? Why that many? Does that number represent something? Convex; undertow was somewhat of an anomaly because I knew the exact space I was going to be using ahead of time. This did not cause me to prematurely conceptualize the visual aspects or arrangement of the work. Instead, it allowed me think about how I wanted the space to feel and be interacted with so, when I was finally installing the work, I felt secure in what I was after. That guided the installation process.

I make the varying physical aspects of the work before installing anything, such as the faux fur medicine balls or casting concrete. When the objects are complete, I begin installation. The drawings become less relevant during this stage because the space is what dictates the installation. I usually bring everything that I would like to use into the space and quickly sketch out some possible arrangements. These drawings help me place some of the bigger or heavier parts, like the steel plates in Convex; undertow and the concrete block. From there, I start trying different arrangements out by connecting chains, figuring out where the balls fit in, etc. I am looking for the arrangement that feels the most cohesive and is true to the feelings and questions I want the installation to evoke. As I go through this process, the conceptual notions become more defined. I start to better understand what I want the work to say through the decisions that go into the arrangement of its parts. This is what led to the medicine ball on the floor, the broken chain links littering the floor, and the concrete block being labeled with its weight. These aspects were not planned. They were added as the installation progressed. These details helped define the work and the space that it exists within in.

When the installation is complete, I tend to reflect on the ideas that I think are a part of it and what is allowing them to be communicated. I often, if not always, discover that there are ideas present in the work that I hadn’t been able to articulate at its start. These ideas are what lead into the next work. In the case of Convex; undertow, it was Concave; undercurrent.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you ever have trouble finding a location for installation work? Do you create your installations in a studio or on-site?

Gabriel Weinstock:
Finding places where I would like to install work is never difficult. I see them everyday, but getting permission to use them is a struggle. At the moment, I am trying to focus my energy on proposals for a few different spaces. All of my installations are created on-site and my studio isn’t the most ideal space for working on them. I am always working on smaller pieces that I would like incorporate into installations, but, without a space or a deadline, its hard for those ideas to become fully realized.

When one is an undergraduate, they are constantly given project deadlines, which results in the production of  a lot of work in a short period of time. When school is over, it seems like that is how work is suppose to get made. It is a challenge to get out of that mindset. Currently, I am trying to work consistently and consciously without letting myself stress out about how much is getting done.

Recently, I have been working collaboratively on a couple different projects. Creating work with, and not just around, other people is new to me, and I am really excited about it. It has been hugely helpful in a few different ways. It’s resulted in ideas and concepts that I would not have  come up with on my own, and the collaboration keeps everyone focused. The additional input has increased the list of potential spaces and has helped me stay optimistic, determined, and confident about acquiring one to show new work in.


Please view Gabriel Weinstock’s work online and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Connecting 3-D Printing and Nature: Andrew Werby

Andrew Werby is a sculptor and the founder of United Artworks. Werby has worked with a host of tools throughout his career, from traditional lost-wax casting processes to cutting-edge 3D printers. Further images of his artwork and information about his business can be found at juxtamorph.com.

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Paul Weiner:
Explain your idea of a “juxtamorphic” style.

Andrew Werby:
While I love art history, particularly the artifacts of ancient and distant civilizations, I felt the need to create a form of art that derived directly from nature, without reliance on my – or any human’s – cultural background. To me, anyway, natural objects speak a language of their own, which is independent of any artistic style developed by man. People have certainly used natural forms to develop styles of ornamentation before, generally abstracting and conventionalizing them. The Greek acanthus leaf is an example – in art history, one can see it progressively degenerate through generations of copying and reuse until its original vitality is entirely dissipated.

By capturing natural forms directly and using them in combination with each other to concentrate their innate power, I’m trying to build an aesthetic system like a mathematical proof, starting from what can be considered axioms: the natural forms that have surrounded mankind since its beginning. If we have any clue about what beauty might consist of, it seems to me, it has to be based on them. By carefully considering these forms, searching for affinities, mating one with another, and building up a work of art based on respect for their formal values, I’m trying to circumvent the unfortunate human tendency to identify, classify, and dismiss all this beauty without really seeing it for what it is.

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Paul Weiner:
Would you say that this attempt to build a “system like a mathematical proof” has in any way determined your affinity for computer printing over less accurate casting methods?

Andrew Werby:
I didn’t mean to imply that making a piece of art in the Juxtamorphic style was as automatic and predetermined as going through a mathematical procedure. What I meant was that in constructing an aesthetic system from first principles, using the works of nature as “givens”, I felt I was building on a firm foundation, in the style of a theorem. The actual process of making art this way is very much a matter of trial and error.

In opting for this digital method of constructing sculpture, I’ve actually had to relax my standards of accuracy a bit. The traditional casting process will accurately reproduce everything one can capture in a rubber mold, which includes detail finer than a fingerprint. But no 3D scanner I have access to can capture detail like that; there’s always some loss in translation. And while detail is concentrated when one starts with a large object and scales it down, often I’m going in the other direction, with a consequent loss of detail. There’s also some detail lost in 3D printing itself,depending on the part’s scale and the type of printer used. I think this is justifiable in view of the flexibility afforded by a digitally-mediated process, but it’s still a sacrifice.

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Paul Weiner:
Could you explain the process you employ for a 3D printer?

Andrew Werby:
Different 3D printers require somewhat different inputs and are suitable for different purposes. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, which have to be considered when choosing one for a particular project. For instance, the color printer I use allows me to use photographs on the surface of my pieces, much like projecting them onto a blank form, except that the color on the surface is an integral part of the piece, and is built along with the rest of it. I have another one that prints in clear plastic. These prints are a lot more durable than my color prints, but the detail on the surface, which is better, is harder to see because of the clarity, although that does produce some interesting visual effects. Another printer I’ve been using prints small objects with extremely high detail in a resin that’s suitable for investment casting, so I can transform these prints into jewelry or other parts in a range of metals.

Paul Weiner:
What kind of programs do you use in order to tell the printer what to make?

Andrew Werby:
There are a few different steps to my process. The first is 3D scanning, to create a library of forms that become my primary source material. Each scanning system consists of the hardware that actually captures the scans, and the software that enables it to work. I use a variety of these, ranging from simple touch-probes that record a single point at a time to laser scanners that can capture a whole object in great detail.

Once I have some scans to work with, I use one of a series of programs to combine, mirror, duplicate, scale and distort them in various ways, and to subtract one from another. My favorite program for doing this is called Geomagic Freeform. It’s a hardware/software system that has the unique ability to convey a tactile impression of the objects one is working on by varying the resistance of an articulated arm that’s used to manipulate them, so it’s a lot like using a real tool on a physical material, and is excellent for making subtle transitions from one surface to another. I also use more traditional CAD (Computer Aided Design) software for tasks which require hard geometric forms and measured relationships between them. Often I’ll use a combination of different software programs on a single piece to deal with different aspects of its intended function and appearance.

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Paul Weiner:
How did you make the transition from bronze casting to 3D printing?

Andrew Werby:
The techniques of “lost wax” bronze casting traditionally were something that was left to foundry technicians to execute, based on a clay or plaster model that an artist would deliver, often at a much smaller scale than the large metal sculpture they’d produce. This led to a certain level of disengagement on the part of the sculptors, and to sculptures that lost something in translation. Fortunately, I was taught bronze casting by some sculptors who had revived foundry practice as a hands-on skill that artists could master themselves. One of the things we learned was mold-making. This was a revelation to me; I loved the idea that I could capture the surface information from one object and create another one in a different material, like wax or bronze, that still displayed the exact configuration of the original. I became particularly fascinated with doing this to natural objects, since they display such a mysterious richness of texture and detail. Soon I’d amassed the beginnings of what would become a formidable mold library, initially drawing on the resources of my school’s departmental collections, and had begun casting sculptures that combined all sorts of different animals, minerals, and vegetables.

I carried on with this for a long time after graduation, building a foundry of my own and expanding this basic technique into various other media. When personal computers started becoming powerful enough to combine photographic images, I delved into that a bit, but as a sculptor I was unsatisfied with making only 2D images, although I was intrigued by the ease and seamlessness of the transitions I could achieve in digital photo-collage. I started wondering if I could do the same thing in 3D and create actual sculpture from virtual models of natural forms. But everyone I spoke to about it at the time told me it was impossible, at least for an individual artist without corporate backing. I kept researching this, however, and my timing was right, because companies making CAD software and hardware peripherals were waking up to the mass market that was created with the spread of powerful personal computers, and making products available at much lower prices than before. I discovered some relatively inexpensive tools that allowed me to prove the concept, capturing a seashell in 3D, importing and manipulating it in a software environment, and then using a small CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) milling machine to carve it into a piece of wood.

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I really like the CNC process, since it allowed me to expand what I could previously only do with casting and approach carving in much the same way. One is fairly unconstrained in the materials that can be used, and the scale of a part can be as large as the machine allows, while the level of detail is largely dependent on the time one is willing to spend carving it. I could use it to create models for casting in other materials, or create a final part in a permanent material like wood. The machines that do it are relatively simple, and I was able to build some for myself that extended the size range of the parts I could make. I’d found some 3D scanning equipment that was faster and produced models with better detail, and discovered software that let my imagination loose on them. But to carve something with a CNC mill, the tool has to be able to reach every area of the part’s surface, and there are some constraints on the designs one can accomplish. I found myself constructing things I couldn’t carve, and thinking about 3D printers.

There are quite a few different varieties of 3D printers. At the low end, they are basically just CNC machines with a hot-glue gun instead of a spindle, although they use more rigid plastic as a feedstock. The layers of material they deposit are individually visible on the surface and tend to obliterate all but the strongest surface textures. And the forms they can make are not unconstrained; the hot plastic, if not completely supported, will droop to the bottom of the build platform. I couldn’t see any particular advantage to using them instead of CNC carving.

However, there are some other technologies, like powder-bed printing, where a layer of powder is consolidated selectively and another is added on top, that allow the piece to be supported by the unconsolidated powder as it’s built up layer by layer. This allows a lot more freedom in design. Another method involves shining a laser into a vat of liquid photo-reactive polymer. This requires support from the bottom of the vat, but not nearly as much as the hot extruded filament, so the supports that are used can be easily detached.

A third technique also uses photoreactive resin, but cures it using a projector from underneath, which allows it to build particularly fast, since a whole slice is exposed at a time. By making each slice very thin, it can produce very fine detail fairly quickly. This resin is suitable for “lost wax” casting, since it burns out cleanly in a mold, so I’m able to cast it in bronze, just like the wax I started out with.

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Paul Weiner:
Would you consider your work fine art sculpture, design, or somewhere between the two?

Andrew Werby:
My work can be arranged on a continuum between purely artistic sculptures and completely functional designs. I don’t make a big distinction between art and craft; my most influential teachers were among those artists of the 20th century who worked hard to obliterate that divide and I basically agree with them about the uselessness of segregating the two. I might make something that has no earthly use except as an object for contemplation; in that case there’s nothing else to call it but fine art. I also make things which can be put to some kind of use – a vessel, for instance, or a piece of jewelry. Its functional aspects may not be such as to overshadow its basically decorative nature, so it would rank somewhere in the middle. But I don’t forbid myself from acting as a designer first and an artist second, if the task warrants it, and in that case the intended function will largely dictate the form I produce to accommodate it. That would be placed on the other end of the spectrum.

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Paul Weiner:
Do you enjoy making work that functions as a tool more, less, or equally to making work purely for aesthetic pleasure?

Andrew Werby:
I like doing both things. I don’t feel any compulsion to be purely an artist or exclusively a designer. Perhaps these different things are satisfying in different ways, so I do one or the other as the mood strikes me or the need for it presents itself. It’s good to identify an unmet need and fulfill it, so for instance I’ve launched into a project of designing the ultimate electric cello, which is more or less a pure design effort, where the goal is to achieve as good a sound quality as possible while preserving the ergonomics of the acoustic instrument. In the course of making a piece I often find I need some tool or machine that doesn’t exist, so in order to do something I’ve set my mind on, I’m obliged to shift gears and go into tool-making mode.


Please view Andrew Werby’s artwork online at juxtamorph.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Melding Metalwork and Painting: Virginia T. Coleman

Virginia T. Coleman is an artist residing in Denver, Colorado as a member of the Next Art Gallery. She holds an MFA from the Academy of Fine Arts in San Francisco, as well as a Bachelors of environmental design from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Masters Certificate in welding from the Tulsa Welding School. Her artwork can be found online at http://www.virginiatcoleman.com.

Here is an installation photo from Virginia T Coleman’s recent exhibition, The Lines of a Woman.


Paul Weiner:

Take us through the process of making your work. How do you balance painting with metal?

Virginia T Coleman:

My approach varies depending on the type of work. When it comes to the more conceptual, abstract pieces of my metal art, it begins randomly. I say that because I usually will just be staring at a pile of metal or some scraps I might need to use up, and I begin to arrange them compositionally. This then will lead me to begin to think of a concept that will drive the final arrangement of the elements. The finished product is an exercise in taking the abstract and morphing it into a tangible concept.

If it is a predetermined concept that is larger and more complex in scale, I will begin with a doodle and then a scaled model. The model is usually made out of cardboard to scale so I can think quickly, make changes, add and subtract color before I begin to fabricate it out of metal. Once you begin working with metal, you quickly recognize how you can do something to metal that will take you hours to correct and sometimes correction is not possible.

When I work with metal, I try and use the inherent characteristic of the material before I begin to even consider adding my own personal color. Some pieces in the end require very little added manipulation. others need color to be added. Whichever way the work wanders, I try to make my decisions slowly and methodically.

Willis Polk's Catalyst for Modernist Steel in San Francisco; 2009; stainless steel, wood, oil paint, acrylic paint, and plastic; 25"x28"x11"

Willis Polk’s Catalyst for Modernist Steel in San Francisco; 2009; stainless steel, wood, oil paint, acrylic paint, and plastic; 25″x28″x11″

Linear Deception of Space; 2012; steel; 72"x50"x20"

Linear Deception of Space; 2012; steel; 72″x50″x20″

Paul Weiner:

Out of your metalwork, paintings, and photography, which medium do you find the most challenging?

Virginia T Coleman:

I find challenges out of all the mediums; however, they all fuse into the medium to which I most desire to master, metal. I recognize, however, that I can never master metal because metal is such a dynamic, living entity. Metal gives me challenges everyday through my job as a professional welder to my work as an artist. Metal has become my life challenge.

San Francisco; 2012; steel. acetylene torch, oil paint, and enamel spray; 24″x10″x2.5″

New Orleans; 2012; steel acetylene torch, oil paint, and enamel; 24"x10"x2.5"

New Orleans; 2012; steel acetylene torch, oil paint, and enamel; 24″x10″x2.5″

Paul Weiner:

Could you explain the connection your work seems to have to architecture, both conceptually and materially?

Virginia T Coleman:

Architecture is really the basis for every aspect of my art. I was trained as an architect first, a fine artist second, a sculptor third, and craftsman fourth.

With that being said, I have been enamored by buildings since childhood – the pure power yet delicate embrace a building has on the context of our environments. Buildings are the wallpaper, the tunnels, the dreams, the horror and the magic of our world. Architecture is a platform for taking a concept and morphing it into a tangible, inhabitable object. My architecture training taught me how to draw, to doodle, to think outside the box, to find parallels in seemingly disparate trains of thought, and to dream larger than life.

It seems very logical to me today as a metal sculptor that my material of choice should have always been metal, but I didn’t see that link as clearly as others. It wasn’t till my late twenties that I took my first welding class, and I have never glanced back. I am utterly fascinated by metal and steel structures. The pure power which the material possesses is humbling and its delicate ability to weave together, a technical challenge. It still baffles me the capacity steel has; it can bend across great rivers, cantilever weights into space, or teeter to unimaginable heights. It leaves all of us breathless.

When you start to look at metal or at structures closely, you begin to look at the material metal not as an object to build with, but also as a beautiful canvas both inherently and potentially. You can use the rusted autumn of Corten steel, to the shimmery transparency of stainless, to the purple majestic range captured while heating steel, to all metals abilities to be used as a canvas. Metal is a painting in and of itself. So, as I began my career working with metal, I began to take my years as begin trained a painter as a spring board in coloring metal.

I grew up in a mountain town in Colorado that was in the tidal wave of major development. My playground became construction sites, and I loved it. I would go around touching all the raw materials and seeing how the whole house was being put together almost nail by nail; it was an educational childhood. I knew from a young age that I wanted to learn how to make objects, to be hands on with the actual physical fabrication aspect of design.

Architecture is the thread through all my work.

The Glow of Coit Tower; 2009; wood, oil paint, acrylic paint, and steel; 56″x27″x7″

Paul Weiner:

You’re a member of the co-op at Next Art Gallery here in Denver. How would you describe the vibe of a co-op in comparison with a commercial gallery?

Virginia T Coleman:

I was recommended to it by a fellow artist who was telling me how great the gallery space was, so I decided to give it a try. I have not found a commercial gallery that has really grabbed me yet. I hold strong to my freedom to create unhindered by outside influences. I am not opposed to commercial galleries but have not found them conducive at this juncture.

With the Co-op, I am learning a tremendous amount about how a gallery is run. I can’t say I ever want to run a gallery. I’ll leave that to others, but it is interesting. I am in charge of reviewing potential new members portfolios. It is fun to see what other artist in the Denver area are creating. Every member has his or her own unique voice and we support and encourage all of the members to push their art.


Please view Virginia T Coleman’s artwork online at http://www.virginiatcoleman.com/ and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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