Yellow Springs’ National Bronze Sculpture Symposium
As October brings cooler weather, the outdoor foundry at Antioch College will be host to hot furnaces in anticipation of the first annual National Bronze Sculpture Symposium. The public and artists from around the country are invited to participate in a two-week series of workshops, demonstrations and programs on the process and significance of bronze sculpture.
Bernie Carreno, Foundry Chief, during bronze pour. Image courtesy of the National Bronze Sculpture Symposium.
Organized by the Yellow Springs Arts Council in collaboration with several community partners, the symposium offers first-hand experiences in the method of lost-wax bronze casting. “The purpose of the National Bronze Sculpture Symposium is to create lasting public art through a process that will engage and educate community members, students, and visitors from the Greater Miami Valley,” said Joanne Caputo, the symposium’s project manager. “They can meet and talk with contemporary artists reimagining a traditional medium, and attend an evening series of lectures and presentations to learn how a sculpture is developed and finally cast in bronze.”
Engaging a long-established process with contemporary artists is a part of the experience the organizers are hoping to accomplish. The goal was to find artists interested in the idea of pushing “the boundaries and conventions of working in bronze [and] that would engage and inspire our local citizens and continue to develop our distinctive sense of place,” said Dennie Eagleson, a member of the Bronze Symposium planning committee.
A national jury selected four sculptors from dozens of artist submissions and invited them to create a new work on-site within the symposium’s two-week time frame. The entire creative process, from creating the clay sculpture to the bronze pour, will be accessible to the public. The guest artists are Susan Byrnes (Cincinnati, Ohio), D’jean Jawrunner (Tucumcari, New Mexico), Brian Maughan (Yellow Springs, Ohio), and John Weidman (Brookline, New Hampshire).
Each artist has experience working in bronze and cast metals, and the opportunity to use the lost-wax method in a public context was attractive to the artists. “The symposium provides the opportunity to find new directions for size, texture and shape,” said D’jean Jawrunner. “Taking something familiar and seeing it in a new way is challenging.”
Susan Byrnes agrees. The first bronze casting she ever created was in Tucumcari, New Mexico, at the very foundry that Jawrunner currently runs. Now, she uses mostly other metal casting processes for her work, so the lost-wax technique is a new approach. “It has been a challenge for me to completely rethink my design and the process in a material that I don’t normally use,” said Byrnes.
The first step in the artist’s lost-wax technique is to realize their sculpture in clay and then to create a mold of the finished clay piece. Once the clay is removed from the mold, hot wax is poured in to the negative space to create a cast of the sculpture. Several more wax casts will be created in this mold to create a limited edition series of the finished sculpture (generally these molds are destroyed once the number of pieces in the series is reached). Each wax cast will look like the finished bronze piece and will be prepared with “spruing,” or channels, also in wax. Echoing tree limbs or arteries, these extend from the wax sculpture and channel the molten metal as well as help gas escape during the pour. The sprued wax form is dipped repeatedly into a mixture of clay or slurry, which hardens into an all-encompassing singular shell, essentially another mold for the next stage in casting. The wax is melted out, leaving the negative space of the artwork within the hard shell. The molten bronze is poured into the shell, which after cooling, is broken off. The spruing paths are then removed from the bronze piece and any imperfections or techniques (such as a patina) are utilized to finish the piece.
The public engagement component is essential to the symposium’s mission in utilizing the lost-wax technique. “Public engagement is very important and to learn from other artists and take that knowledge back to their own communities is essential,” said John Weidman. The bronze pour will be led by sculptor and foundry chief Bernie Carreño of Austin, Texas, who spent years running the Indianapolis Art Center’s sculpture department, as well as teaching bronze casting and other metal techniques.
The schedule of events will include outdoor studio time with the guest artists, lectures by artists, art educators and archivists, workshops, and even an exhibition by world-renowned Yellow Springs sculptor Jon Barlow Hudson, whose exhibition Maquettes for Large Scale Sculptures will open at the Yellow Springs Arts Council Gallery. High school students in Yellow Springs, Kettering and Dayton will also participate in special aluminum pours with Carreño. “The culminating memorable event, of course, is the pouring of molten bronze on the last night – a rare opportunity, even for artists, although it’s been done for thousands of years,” said Caputo. The finished bronze pieces will be installed as a “Bronze Sculpture Trail” in downtown Yellow Springs in 2014, and limited editions will be available for purchase.
Experiencing a technique that is not readily accessible, the National Bronze Sculpture Symposium will forge a deeper understanding of many of the objects that inhabit our world. Through a robust series of events, the creative and technical process of lost-wax casting will be a part of our knowledge. “My creativity is fed by daily experience,” said Jawrunner. “How wonderful to create work for an exact location and experience the reality and influence of being there.”
Learn more about the National Bronze Sculpture Symposium by visiting www.yellow-springs-experience.org. Events take place from Sunday, October 13 through Saturday, October 26; a schedule of events, which are planned daily, are listed on the website. An aluminum pour option for the public with Bernie Carreño will take place on Tuesday, October 29 at Rosewood Arts Centre in Kettering. Learn how to participate by visiting citysites.ketteringoh.org.
This article was originally published in the October 1, 2013 edition of the Dayton City Paper.