Posts Tagged ‘bronze’

Fire Cauldron

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Age of Fire: Transformation
Bronze cauldron/pot
collection of Helen Klebesadel, Madison, WI

In the collection of Helen Klebesadel

I’m sure if Rae had continued access to a foundry, she would have made more cast metal pieces.  She loved designing, forming, adding the spurs and vents, and then watching the finished piece appear out of the hot plaster, with the help of a hose and small hammers.

The Fire cauldron, sister to the Earth and Water pots, stands out as the only one to actually be used in a ritual setting.  It has 5 candle holders, of varying heights, in the bottom of the interior, and when lit, their light shine outward.  

It was made like the others, by layering wax on a beach ball. Like the Earth cauldron, it had pieces added to it.  These were three faces of women, cast using Jeltrate like the hands in the Bronze Broom.  These were carefully incorporated into the cauldron so that they were part of it, not added on.  The eyes of two the three women, and the mouth of the third were open, and cut out, so that light could pass through them.  (No, their eyes were not open when the Jeltrate was applied, that would be asking too much of even those valiant ladies)

The feet, like those of the Celtic Mirror, were snake heads.  The title for the Women, Domesticity and Objects of Power show came from the legends of the cauldron of rebirth, and the recurring theme in myth, art and literature of the cauldron as a transformative tool.

The patina for the Fire cauldron was, if I remember correctly, fire.  A smoky fire of twigs and leaves, the soot darkening the bronze.

Cauldron – From the Age of Water, Continuity

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Bronze, copper patina

From the Women, Domesticity and Objects of Power show.  This cauldron is one of 3 Rae did in Bronze, representing Water.  The Earth Cauldron I’ve already Presented, and the Fire is coming in a few weeks.  There was no Air, She ran out of time and access to the foundry before she designed one for Air.

The Water Cauldron came out exactly as she envisioned it, she was always very proud of it.  The designs are Celtic-inspired, with knot work around the rim, a mermaid holding the chain link for a handle loop (no handle has been made), and three naked goddesses for feet, their hair flowing up and merging with the cauldron.

The fantastic blue color was Rae’s choice of patina, created by brushing copper sulphate solution over the cauldron after all the spurs were cut, imperfections ground out, and the last of the plaster cleaned out of crevices.  She would patio the outside, , then the inside, let them dry to a flaky blue-white, then paint right over that again with the solution, 7 or 8 times, drying completely between.  The outer layers of the metal finally took the color, and now it is a part of the surface, and would take a lot of sanding to remove (as if!)

This Cauldron, like her Earth, was made over a beach-ball mold, with the knot work carefully measured and carved in a flat ribbon, and then melted to the outside edge.  Similarly, the feet and handles were carved in foundry wax and applied to their final positions before the burn-out and pour.

The Continuity Cauldron is heavy, though not as heavy as the Earth one, and it can actually hold water.  It IS water, in metallic form.  Happy Birthday, Rae!?

Classical Proportions/Narrow Perspective

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Available!  $900

Age of Knowledge, 1994: Women, Domesticity and Objects of Power

bronze, wood, mirror 26”h x 14”w x 9”d

I know Rae had fun making this piece.  The concept was straightforward.  She had been working for some time with the FatAn collective, preparing an anthology of works on Fat Activism.  She was never thin, though I do remember a time when we could wear the same jeans.  But she was a feminist, and outraged at the culture of artificial beauty that surrounds us.  She knew from experience that she could not lose her weight and keep her health, and who she was.

The modern image of female beauty is fairly recent, in its thinness, at least.  If you look at classical statues, the proportions of the women in them are much rounder than anything you’d see in a magazine.  So this piece is a statement of how our perspective has literally changed.  The columns (made from wedding cake decorations!)  and the pulchritudinous forms lounging at their feet represent classical beauty.  The mirror is made intentionally too thin to ever be able to see all of yourself in it, no matter how thin, and so is an analog to the internal image many women have that they are fat.

Happy Imbolc!

Ancient Mother, Modern Lies

Sunday, December 6th, 2009
Closed at MFA show

Closed at MFA show

Available! $1000

From the Age of Confusion: Ancient Mother, Modern Lies
walnut, silk, bronze, clay, mirror


(click images to enlarge)

This is one of the pieces from her MFA show, Women, Domesticity, and Objects of Power.  As most of the pieces, its title begins: From the Age of…
Rae really liked creating this piece, I know.  It combines many different media, tells its story without translation or comment, a different story to each viewer.  She got to work with silk, and photo transfer images; wax figurines that were spin-cast; stained glass; terra-cotta; and wood.  Each aspect could stand alone, together they make an exquisite piece.  AMML_opened
I remember the piece started with the images on the silk, behind the bronze figurines inside the cabinet.  She had seen a set of lovely silk pillows/sachets with goddess images on them, and discovered the images were photo-transfers, so she selected a dozen images of women: the Laussel goddess, Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, others I recognize but can’t name, since I did not take any Art History classes.  She chose the size she would eventually make the box for each, then experimented with the technique till she was satisfied.
The little bronze figurines were painstakingly molded in wax, she carried around a Tupperware container with dental tools and would work on them during lectures and between classes, at meetings, and while watching TV.  They depict shamelessly large, brazen (literally!) voluptuous sexy women in a variety of poses.  The spin-casting technique was fun, too, I helped her set them up.  Instead of a large foundry, the molds were in small steel cylinders.  these were placed on an armature, the molten bronze poured in, and the lid slammed down, which engaged a lever and fulcrum, spinning the mold at several G’s, forcing the molten liquid into the small spaces before it cooled.
The wooden cabinet is reminiscent of a wall clock in shape, I had to help her determine the miter angles, she used spline joints all around, the only metal in the hinges and to tack the back on.  The walnut is carefully matched for color and grain.  The colored glass carefully cut to fit into the doors, I remember holding my breath during that, we only had one piece of glass to use, the last of its color, a beautiful smoking golden.AMML_top_open
AMML_top_closedThe top was another achievement.  Looks a bit like a birdhouse, maybe ready for a cuckoo to pop out of.  The door and it’s frame appear to be made of one piece of wood, so well matched is the grain, but it was not.  The door itself was a piece of Walnut burl, and the frame was carved to receive it’s curves.  Inside Rae placed one of her ubiquitous mirrors, framing a terra-cotta goddess like the neolithic figurines found in Europe, very much like the one in the Spiritus piece from last week’s blog.
I think you know who the ancient mother is, and I’ll let you infer yourselves about the modern lies, as Rae would have.  Enjoy!

Spiritus Muliebris: volutum per aspicio paternus: Totem Series

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

(Divine Female: Evolution of the Patriarchal Gaze)patriarchal_web

basswood, ash, bronze, stone, broomcorn

Spiritus is one of Rae’s Totem series, which started with Celtic Totem, and also includes the Jumping Knot Broom.  Like Celtic Totem, it tells a story.  But not a folktale, rather the story of the historical record of how the female figure was represented in art, and in spirituality.
I remember Rae asking me what the Latin word for “gaze” was.  She tended to think I could answer any question immediately, and I had, after all, taken 2 semesters of Latin in High School…  So I looked up a variety of words for her, and she crafted the title of this piece from those words and definitions, taking no more liberties than is common in pseudo-latin for scientific names, and certainly few Latin grammar purists to complain.  The name is permanent now in any case, and fits the meaning intended.  The broom represents the evolution over time of the representation of the female form, specifically the sacred feminine form, the evolution of the gaze of the patriarchy.
The broom comes apart for storage and transport, like the Celtic Totem, with the stick part forming a tenon at its base, fitting into the base of the broom.  So I will start the description of the broom from the bottom, which is the beginning of the timeline represented, as well.
SPIRITUS_BASEThe very bottom is a block of Ash, with some beautiful grain in it, supporting a block of limestone, to protect both the stone and any floor it would have to sit on.  The Ash wood was sculpted to fit the irregularities of the stone underneath, and two holes were bored through the wood and the stone.  The stone itself then represents the Earth, the oldest (non)representation of the sacred female.
Above the stone is Rae’s representation of one of the oldest female figures found by archaeologists, on the Isle of Malta.  Several of thesefertility_Goddess_low statues, all without heads, dating to ~3500BCE were found.  Called by Marija Gimbutas the Giantess, she was obviously important to the people then, and her size, like those of the Willendorf and other figurines, implied that slimness was not a valued attribute in representation of the sacred female.  Rae added a head, I don’t remember what it was modeled from.  The broom makes up Her skirt and legs, with bolts connecting the base below, through the two broomcorn “legs” and into the body of the Goddess, who was carved into two large pieces of Basswood glued into one block.  A cavity in the body accepts the “neck” of the head of the goddess, who’s hare curls into a bun which becomes a snake, coiling up and around the rest of the sculpture.
spiritus_lionsspiritus_lions_backThe next figure is also very old, a curvaceous female with large breasts and buttocks, flanked by two lions, indicating her power and status.  Also very much not a modern pinup. The snake crosses her belly and continues up, she stands with her feet together on the head of the Malta goddess.  Some archaeologists have stated that since there is no head, and all the Maltese figures are “obese”, there is no way to state that it is indeed female.  But ther is definitely no doubt of the gender of this figure.
spiritus_top_frontStanding on her shoulders, with the snake curling around an ankle and between her legs, is a figure from Hindu temple walls, a Lakshmi, perhaps.  Hand on outthrust hip, large but not pendulous bosom, she appears confident and unashamed, but perhaps a little flirtatious, too…
Next is a highly decorated bust of an Egyptian goddess.  More aloof, regal.  More obviously decorative, her power from her rank and position, a beauty to be observed from a distance, with awe and respect.  Rae painted some of the neckpiece with opalescent colors, also used on the earrings of the Indian goddess.
Atop the whole is a bronze statuette, the Virgin Mary, which Rae began with a small statuette, added wax to create a halo with 3 small sand-dollars in it, and added a snake curling around the base of her robe (not under her foot), and 3 starfish on the rock at the base.
It was a lot of carving, a lot of sanding.  There was more wood removed than remaining in the end, and she faced lots of challenges with leaving enough for strength.

Mirror of Life, Mirror of Death

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009
Celtic Mirror Back

Also Known as the Celtic Mirror, this piece was first shown in 1994 at the show I highlighted last week.  Called “Age of Acceptance: Mirror Of Death/Mirror Of Life”  It stands 15″ tall, weighs about 10 lbs.   On one side, shown on the left, is a Celtic Design consisting of 5 triple spirals, or Triskelions.  The mirrors “handle” is a braid, which turns into a base consisting of 3 snake heads.  Lots of symbology here.

In her words from a later artist statement:

“My stories begin with the myth, the folk tale, the superstition and the stereotype hidden in our own homes.  The familiar object with the obscure story attached, the piece we are aware of, but don’t notice, the inconsistency that some of us avoid…  The relationship to women and the contradiction we live with daily…

…Similarly, the pot changes from a simple cooking implement, to a cauldron for unholy potions, our contrary roles of nurturer, healer, poisoner, witch….  The mirror becomes an object of vanity or magical sight. Mirrors gave me a gift of story about beauty,  about vanity, a view of women as perhaps less intelligent, more fragile in their beauty that draws rescue, or repels it with the contradictions of intelligent and beauty… Woman as more susceptible to “evil”, or  our powers to entice or attract “evil”, or be evil…  Contradictions in the face of beauty… ”

Mirrors are a common magical tool.  They can not only reflect the real world, they can be a window into the spiritual, the future, the invisible.  For this purpose, it does not need to be a perfect reflective surface, so Rae did not polish the mirror surface to its potential.  She had found pictures of old bronze mirrors from Greece and Rome.

Celtic Mirror Front

Celtic Mirror Front

The ‘face’ of the mirror is just reflective enough to give the impression of looking through a veil at a golden version of the room you are in, heavily distorted, and only coming into focus when you relax and look “through” it.   It is too heavy to use as a hand mirror, but stands well, and is stable on its three snake-head ‘legs’.

The mirror top was made of a circle of wax in a plate, with the decorations made by cutting out of a thin slab of wax. Details and the spirals were cut in with clay tools.  The handle was an actual braid of human hair, the snakes made by creating molds from Geltrate and plastic snakes, then pouring molten wax into the molds, and melding the wax to the hair, with a chopstick to give it rigidity to stand up long enough to place in the plaster and cast the bronze.

Handle and Base

Handle and Base

The name came last.  I am not positive about it’s exact meaning.  Like much art, the artist creates, has a vision, and the viewer (consumer? audience? ) interacts with it, their own experience informing their interpretations.  Literally, given the magical use of mirrors for scrying, the mirror of death could mean peering through the veil to communication with those who have left the world, miirror of life to view the present or future.

Earth Cauldron

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Happy Autumn!

Earth Cauldron

Earth Cauldron

Available! $1000

Turning from Brooms for a while, I’d like to present one of Rae’s Cauldrons.  She did 3 while at the UW, with access to the foundry there.  The theme was the elements, and she did Fire, Water, and Earth.  This one is the Earth.  The outside is a globe, with the continents in relief.  Visible in this picture are North Africa and Europe., with one of the loops intended for a ring handle that was never installed.

All 3 cauldrons were created using the”lost wax” method.  To get the basic shape, Rae started with a beach ball.  She had an old deep-fryer, looked like a toaster with juse one very large slot.  Into this were placed hunks of foundry wax, a brown, sticky substance that dries not quite as hard or brittle as paraffin.  It can be carved with clay tools, and layers built up with melted wax in a variety of ways.  Rae used the pot of just-barely melted wax, butter knives and palette knives, and brushes.    To make the cauldron shape, she brushed layer after layer of wax onto the beach ball, 3/4 of the way up, letting it cool before adding another coat.  For the Earth Cauldron, the entire orb was fairly thin, about 1/4″.

I printed out some maps of the continents, we cut them out, and laid the patterns on a 3/8″ thick slab of foundry wax, then cut through the wax to get little pancakes of each.  These were transferred to the surface of the orb, warmed almost to melting to make them flexible, stuck by heating a thin pallette knife over an alcohol flame.  The beach ball was deflated, the top edge folded over and formed into a lip

This piece also features snakes.  Snakes had special significance to Rae.  They stood for Wisdom and knowledge.  Rather than try to carve snakes from scratch, she bought

Interior Earth Cauldron

Interior Earth Cauldron

some rubber snakes from a toy store.  Since they were burnable material, they were incorporated directly into this piece.  (I’ll describe how the Fire Cauldron’s feet were made later)  One was curled up on the bottom, and is very seldom seen, since you have to tip the cauldron over.  The others are inside, one on the inside surface of the globe, the other curling around the other feature inside the cauldron, the House.

The house is modeled after the quilt pattern called “schoolhouse”.  Again, a sheet of wax (molten wax poured into a lined cookie sheet) was cut into the 4 sides, roof, and then 2 “smokestacks”, complete with windows and doors.  Assembled and placed in the bottom of the cauldron, and then another snake out a window, curled around and into the door.  The house had a lot of significance to Rae, representing home, a sanctuary usually, but the snake moving in and out represented the invasion of that sanctuary, a reference to some unpleasant childhood memories.

Earth Cauldron inside

Earth Cauldron inside

Once the piece was complete, more wax was added as “sprues”, for the bronze to pour into the mold, nd to allow venting of gasses when everything melted.  The entire piece was suspended in a cylindrical cardboard tube, and plaster poured into and around it.  When that hardened, what was left showing was a 3″ circle of wax and a couple of small ones for vents.  The entire thing was placed into a burn-out oven for a couple of days, where all the wax was evaporated, along with the snakes and a few plastic straws, etc.

While that was still hot, the bronze was melted into a crucible, and some heat-suit wearing art students working on the semester’s projects poured it into the waiting molds, while others stood by with shovels and gloves.  The molds were placed in black foundry earth, a slightly sticky mix of sand, dirt, waste oil, and other stuff, if my memory serves me.

There was a problem.  A crack had appeared in the mold, and the molten liquid found it and widened it, and out the side of the mold appeared flames and smoke.  Rushing in with shovels, dirt was piled against the side and held in place with shovels, which turned red with the heat. As more bronze was poured in, more flowed out till George (the Instructor) said enough!

When it had cooled enough to open up, the cauldron had a large, irregular fan of bronze coming off the side, and several places wehre the bronze had not completely filled in the thinner areas, because it had cooled too qucily spreading into them.  Thus the round-edged gaps in the oceans visible in the photos.  The effect was unexpected, unplanned, but not unpleasant.

Then began the long process of cleaning up the cauldron.  The sprues had to be cut off, as well as the excess bronze that had leaked out.  A sawzall and angle-grinder did most of the work.  Hours and many blades, several grinding disks, then sand paper.  The result was a shiny, golden miracle.  Then the patina.

Rae read about, and experimented with, several types of patinas  (finishes) for the bronze.  For the Earth cauldron, she selected a fired milk/mud application.  The cauldron was taken to a friends farm, a pit dug, a fire mad, and the cauldron put into the coals.  dirt was mixed with milk and poured into the cauldron, and the pit, and the cauldron lowered into the hole and covered with more dirt, more milk.  Interesting smell.

The result is a deep brown with darker spots, and a semi-gloss finish.  So it remains to date.

Bronze Broom

Monday, September 14th, 2009

CooperationCurrently on loan to Overture Center, Madison, WI

When Rae had a vision for a piece, it sometimes included a medium she had never worked in.  She took advantage of the opportunities afforded by a first-rate Art Department, and took classes to learn the techniques and bring the vision into reality. In this case, she wanted to make one in Bronze.

Detail of hand from Bronze Broom