Mike Roig, Sculpture
Chapter 2, coming on mid-January 2013

December and 2012 finished up without the world coming to an end, our economy falling off a fiscal cliff, or much more getting accomplished on Murmuration. But then

the twelfth month with it's merry-making, family reunions, and ever-shortening days has never been much noted for efficiency. I allowed myself to close the year fabricating one last new sculpture, although the finishing will continue into the new year. It's got a simple double balancing scheme in that the central components will swing back and forth at a touch, or in a breeze. It's been fun to see people who set it in motion unintentionally react in surprise. The movement is relatively contained, no danger of injury - but they just never expected it to move period.

With the turn of the calendar it's been time for me to bring a stronger focus to the job of getting the flock in flight. To that end the 12" square tubing got un-buried from the pile and hauled in to the studio to be transformed. The pictures at left give some snapshots of the process taking it from plain geometry to the graceful vertical thrust that will carry the avian swirl.

Any long project goes through phases of energetic enthusiasm where, like a mountain hiker you learn to pace the long climbs and enjoy the occasional pauses for scenic overlooks. This project has already had several of those scenic moments in the initial phases. The call out of the blue to request that I consider building the zoo a sculpture, and the trip there to see the proposed site qualify as two.

To be an artist is to be aware that you are working in a tradition that stretches back longer than written language. Specific inspiration for each of us comes from different sources in that tradition. When some grace note from that history chimes into the present - like when I looked over that floating mat of water lilies softening the lake's edge where my sculpture, whatever it might wind up being, would come to live like a feature in a living Monet waterscape - it's sweet music.

Pretty much the entire maquette making process is a task defined more by play than hard slogging. I've grown to have more affection for working smaller that I once had, and certainly the ability to bring an idea into form relatively quickly satisfies my instant gratification impulses.

When the scale grows, so does the physicality of the making. Now the metaphor of the hiker comes strongly into play, and the books-on-tape become my friend. Especially in the early phases when the visual feedback is not dramatic, and the welds are long and many - each requiring close attention to make sure they play their part in making the structure sound - the views are myopic and require meditative attention.

This particular form builds slowly, lying on is side as something at rest. Since this piece is a commission where I have made a commitment to a specific idea, I work with a reduced sense of the kind of anticipation of surprise that I might expect with a piece where I dive in with less sense of direction. I take my pleasure from a sense of competence I feel in knocking down the technical challenges that always arise from simply manipulating large pieces of steel, and moving and turning an object that just gets bigger and heavier as I work.

A couple of fun interludes in the routine involved meeting a new, to me, sculptor from Wilmington, Doug Campbell, and a visit from my friend David Poulos, photographer extraordinaire. Doug stopped by and introduced himself wanting some pointers in working in materials some different from what he was used to working with and wound up hanging in the studio for the better part of a couple of days. That's him in the picture as the sculpture starts angling up out of the welding area. He's a man of many stories and provided a thoroughly entertaining break in the studio routines. We got good work done as well. The link on his name above takes you to a you tube presentation where you can get a taste of some of his creations fantastique.

David, a rather prolific story teller himself, came by in the midst of Doug's visit and I was relieved of any responsibility to hold up any part of the conversation. I just welded and enjoyed. David, whose camera may or not be surgically grafted to his hand, fired away at will. Below are a sampling of his images from this session, and you can find much more of his work on the many subjects that feed his "hungry eye" at www.camerart.com





That last picture of David's is just me being entertained by some yarn from one or the other of them.

The joy in building big sculptures is the commensurately large vistas when you do reach those scenic overlooks. That benign looking form quietly resting on its side will invariably take your breath away as it rises to vertical for the first time. It's just the shape in the maquette enlarged, but the impact of scale will not be denied. As it rises, my sense of wonder and delight are rekindled, and once again I feel the anticipation of seeing this thing come to life. There's a visceral reaction to a scale literally larger than my living being, some awe, some fear - now all the decisions about structural soundness take on a physical meaning. My brain instantly starts to inventory and calculate the calibrations on all the steps I can foresee that will go into making this sculpture.

And then I stop, take a breath, and just enjoy the moment. Those steps will come, one at a time. And I'll solve them, one at a time - just as I always have before. Right now, this view is fine.


Mike Roig - January 10, 2013

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mid-December 2012

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