Friday, October 7, 2011

Grand Opening (X2)!

First was the Grand Art Garden Gala and two days later the Town Creek Arts Festival, all to celebrate the Art garden and the artists whose work was installed. What an amazing couple of days!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sculpture Installation

On the Thursday, September 1st, just before tropical storm Lee hit my friend James and I installed the Garden Boats on site at the Art Garden at the Mississippi Museum of Art. It was sunny and probably 110F during most of the install. We got there at 10:00 AM and started working.
James and at the site. Photo: Julian Rankin

Photo: Julian Rankin

Photo: Julian Rankin

Photo: Julian Rankin
Of course I was worried that something would go wrong but everything went like clock work and by 2:00 PM we were done. Of course I spent the rest of the weekend stressing out that the tropical storm was going to wreck the Garden and my sculptures but everything made it through just fine.

I have gotten some amazing feedback and people are really responding positively to the works, and the Garden is not even officially open yet. Sherry Lucas from the Clarion Ledger came by and did a great article for the newspaper, the print version came out in Friday's paper, real nice. Here's a link to the on-line version of the story.

The grand opening celebration, Town Creek Arts Festival, will be from 10:00 to 10:00 on Saturday October 1. It promises to be a super fun filled day with music, arts and entertainment, and food and beer too! Admission is free, I plan being there for the whole day. I know lots of friends are making plans to drive up from Hattiesburg and join in the festivities as well. It promises to be a very fun event!

Friday, August 19, 2011


Finally after nearly a year of planning, design, and fabrication the Garden Boats outdoor sculpture installation is complete. The only thing left to do is to install the works.

I have heard from the Museum that it could be any day now. How exciting that this could happen so soon!

Nine poles...

and nine "boats", ready for installation in the Art Garden.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Working, Working, Working...

You get the idea. Welder issues taken care of I have been able to get some good work done. I now have a check list and yesterday got a lot of items accomplished. There is light at the end of the tunnel! All the parts are made for the bases and now it's just fabbing everything up. Tomorrow I will cut all the pipes to length, drill and insert the pins and then weld together and attach the internal sleeve bearings. I have a few of the internal sleeves made up and will do the last two tomorrow. After that I can start welding all the bottom supports together. By the end of the week all the fab work should be done and then I have a good chunk of time for clean up and sanding. I feel satisfied that all is going according to plan.

I may be making a few small adjustments to the height of some of the works. You can see in one image that I have my friend John Mark standing next to one of the 'shorter' pieces, he's 6'3". It looks pretty tall to me and I may make some adjustments to keep the works at better relative heights to each other. Also to eliminate the sense of back and front to the works I am installing the support bars randomly. Not that it matters since they all will turn in the wind anyway. More up-dates soon.

My "tall" friend John Mark The shop does not make a good backdrop! Although it might look heavy I can put this up and take it down by myself. However, I will have help when I do the final install at the Museum.

The three 2' pieces with support bars.

Bottom parts.

Top parts, bearing sleeves for the support bars.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Welder from Hell

Things progress well on the museum commission. Well, for the most part. I have been having considerable problems with the mig welder. It does not like stainless steel. Funny this should happen now after I have been using it for weeks without problems. I promise you there is nothing out there that I (and several other people) have not tried in attempts to fix it. Even the welding supervisor from Mississippi Tank came over and tried to help. Of course it worked for a few tacks and then it was all over with. Every one has been so kind in offering suggestions, but now it is time for a pro repairmen. My friends at Airgas will get thier chance on Monday.

The annoying part is that I really wanted to start integrating stainless techniques with my upper level sculpture students this fall and I am not sure we can do it with the problems I am having now. It looks like a new mig welder may be on the books, with this one relegated to carbon steel.

As far as the commission, I have the main sculptures made, all nine of them. I have moved them out of my field of vision into the "gallery". I need a rest from them. Later I will pull them back into the shop and work on them as a unit, adding or taking away elements, if needed, to make a more complete statement.

Right now I am working on the poles and attachment structures for the bases. I made a jig to keep the poles upright for welding and various templates for cutting the shapes. We do not have a CNC cutter so it is all being done by hand with the plasma torch.
Jig for holding pole upright for welding base plate and gussets.

Tacked together assembly it will later be secured to a pre-poured concrete base.

As of yesterday (Saturday) all the parts are cut out for the bases. I got one base tacked up (before the welder bird-nested again) and all looks good. Except of course I can't continue any welding! Argh! My next step, is to get all the parts cleaned up and do any grinding/sanding needed. That will take a good day for sure. Next, I should be receiving my seamless tubing and can get the sleeve bearings made up for the top part of the poles. After that I will have to have the welder problem solved or I will be seriously behind schedule and I can not afford that. Hopefully I can up-date you all soon with positive welder news. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Night at the Musuem

Yesterday evening I along with several of the other artists involved with the Mississippi Museum of Art's Art Garden got a chance to talk with the museum's New Collectors Club about the work we were doing for the garden project. It really was a fun evening and I got to meet a number of very interesting people who are really excited about this project and who have spent their lives supporting the arts in Mississippi and elsewhere.

I showed some slides of my work and brought along one of the pieces for folks to handle and inspect. Attendees had lots of great questions about my work and creative processes and this really reinforces my belief that Mississippi, spearheaded by Betsy Bradley, her staff, and the Museum supporters are poised to usher in a new rennaisiance of art in the state. As an up-and-coming artist in Mississippi this is very exciting to me and to be a part of anything that advances the fine arts is very profound. The Wall Street Journal just posted an interesting article that showed how investment in art objects is at its highest level in a long time and that it seems immune to a number issues related to the recession. This is good news. Of course they are talking about large purchases of well known works but still it is a good sign even for us little people.

On a side note I did get to finally see the poured foundations for my sculptures. I love the site and the foundations look great. It will not be until September before my work can go up but I look forward to the day!

Betsy Bradley gives a talk on the Garden.

Jen Torres and Martha Ferris

My foundations at the site.
Some visitors from New York City enjoying the lovely evening

The piece I brought up to show. Folks really enjoyed being able to handle the actual art work, I got very positive comments!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Back to the Alligator Bench

I'm taking a few days off from my own work to finish up a commission that I am fabricating for Martha Ferris. This is going into the same art garden as my Garden Boats up in Jackson at the Mississippi Museum of Art. The mosaic finally got the museum from New Hampshire and this past Monday I went to Jackson with James to retrieve it. It came in three pieces on a stiff aluminum honeycomb board.

No matter how experienced you are there is always a bit of trepidation when you put together parts of a work that have been manufactured in different places. Of course after holding my breath and slipping the mosaic onto the bench it all fit fine. There are some shims to be placed to get everything perfectly level and then it will glued into place this weekend. After that I will mask off the top to protect it and sand down the sheet metal edge to make everything perfect. I should be done my mid-week next week, with time given to the silicone adhesive to set.

Here is a picture of the bench, with the mosaic placed in, no glue or shims yet. Soon I'll have some finished images to show you! I think it's a very cool design!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Work Continues

Work on the Garden Boat commission continues. Things ebb and flow, some days I get a lot done others not so much. It's hot in the shop and I need to take frequent breaks to keep my self going. Right now things are beginning to get really exciting. After completing much of the frames for the boats I am in the creative mode of building. It's free-er and less restrictive as I add on fins and ribs and other elements. I am almost finished with one of the six footers and well into one of the four footers. By early next week I will have one each of the 2, 4 and 6 footers and they will be good (role) models for the rest of the family of boats.
A four footer in progress.

Fin detail
Cutting into that lovely fresh piece of 11 gauge stainless sheet was nerve wracking and exciting at the same time. My wood fin templates are working well. Since stainless is so hard and bitch to grind I want the plasma cuts to be as perfect as possible. I have found that I actually like the added hardness as it hold edges much better and it less likely to over-grinding. 

A six footer, in progress, next to a completed 2+ footer.
Last weekend was spent on the road doing the 10 hour (each way) drive back and forth from Ormond Beach to pick up my latest show. It was a very nice show and very nice people who ran it. However, in the future I know that unless I can get covered for my travel I will not be doing an exhibition. Too expensive. I will be asking a lot more pointed questions in the future about sales as well. Just because a curator says that there is a "major possibility of sales" doesn't mean a hoot as I am finding out.

This weekend I am happy to be home all weekend! I will be in the shops all weekend long and will get a lot of work accomplished!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

And the Work Continues...

Here are some more pictures of the Garden Boat sculptures in progress in the shop. Work goes well. I am still working on some engineering with the bearings but have finally figured out a system and did some weight testing yesterday. So far it is all working perfect! It has been depressingly hot in the shop, right up at 100F so I am working slow and taking breaks. This weekend I will spend my time on the road as I do the long drive to pick up my last show in Florida, spend the night at the first cheap motel I can find and the head home Sunday. Blah! 

Beautiful (and expensive) 11 gauge sheet of stainless steel

One of the smaller Garden Boats, still needs some finishing 

Larger in progress boat and smaller boat piled on bearing assembly mock-up for weight testing

Mock-up of bearing assembly

Friday, May 27, 2011

Commission Work and More Shows

Schools out for the summer finally! Although I still do teach ceramic sculpture starting next week, that studio class will not affect the metal studio where I am working right now. I have tons of undisturbed space to use and don't have to clean everything up every night.

James relaxing on the just-sanded Alligator Bench for Martha Ferris.
First, I needed to get the Alligator Bench sanded with it's final finish for Martha. It's still not ready for installation as we are waiting for the mosaic to arrive in mid- June. Once that is here I can put it in place and then finish off the top edge. It will probably go to Jackson before it is completely installed with the mosaic glued in place. Doing the final sanding of the bench was fun. James and I worked together on this and it took us a few days to sand it and also do a few spot welds in some places that needed it. I also installed the bottom cross pieces, requested by Madge later on to help with installation. Now it is set off to the side awaiting the mosaic piece and now I can begin work on the Garden Boats.

The Garden Boats are going well. Being back in the studio is very exciting and energizing. I am just at the beginning and working out my techniques for bending, welding and finishing the joints. Stainless is such a different material, so ridged and much stronger than mild steel. When you grind or sand on it with a flap disc it comes off in tiny slivers. Not nice on the skin and very itchy if you are not wearing sleeves. Being so hot in the shop (it's been up over 92F a few times) it's hard to put on sleeves but it's totally worth it. Another thing about stainless is that since it will get no finish later I need to sand every piece now before I weld it into place. Because I have some small parts and some complicated curves I have places that I can not get into with a grinder or sander later, so it all has to get sanded prior to welding. I also have to finish each joint as I go along. It's not something I am used to doing and initially it got in the way of my flow when working but I am adjusting well to the new material and even find I like stainless as I appreciate the hardness. There is more resistance when grinding and sanding and that makes gouging the metal accidentally less of an issue. I can sometimes have a heavy hand when grinding.
The hot shop and modeling my new welding sleeves

I am working on the bearing issues as well. Have a few samples coming and have a good design for how they integrate in the piece. Some bearings can be wildly expensive and others relatively cheap. I have been doing research on this and making some models with parts from the farm store for weeks now but I want to get this part figured out. There are many different bearings that will work for the project but none so far that satisfy my aesthetic for the piece. There are literally thousands of types of bearings and I have been consulting with the tech people at a few of the suppliers and I must say they have been very informative and helpful. One place I must mention is Impact Bearing, their sales manager Scott Barton was extremely helpful. They have so may kinds of bearings it's almost mind numbing, it was great to be able to get someone on the phone who was knowledgeable and easy to talk to. I await a sample piece from them and we'll see if it works.
A Garden Boat, basic structure going well

Templates for the fins to be cut out of 11ga SS sheet

Stainless ready to be made into Garden Boat sculptues

On a side note, The show in Florida at the Ormond Memorial Art Museum is going well and in a few weeks I make the long trek back to collect the work. The Maine show, The Art of the Boat at the Penobscot Maine Museum is up and my heavy ceramic vessel made it fine with out any breakage! Phew! Also, I just received a wonderful letter with an invitation for a show in Idaho in early 2012, of course I accepted and will post more information about that later. Soon I will also begin work on another Train Depo show here in Hattiesburg. The first exhibition, shown last year, was hugely successful and the curators decided to do it again and I am invited to make another work. In addition, I also am working on a top-secret project. We'll see if it materializes or not, if it does you'll get more information later!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Ormond Memorial Art Musuem

Here are some images from the show I am in at the Ormond Memorial Museum of Art. Located in Ormond Beach Florida (about 1 1/2 hours south of Jacksonville) on the Atlantic coast this lovely museum is a real gem in a lush coastal garden. Susan Richmond and the staff are amazing and I think did a great job in installing the work. You see this is the first time that I have had anyone else install one of my exhibitions. I feel every satisfied that it looks fabulous and represents my work well. Below of some images of the install. Enjoy!

All photos by Virginia Rivera