Rex Hospital Commission
Earlier in 2016, Rory Parnell of Mahler Fine Arts in Raleigh approached me
about creating a sculpture for Rex Hospital's new facility devoted to treating
heart ailments. I proposed an idea sketched up in Photoshop (pictured above), having
been so involved new studio construction at the time that an actual model was
out of the question. The studio is complete, and I'm beginning to enjoy using the
new space. The luxury of that ability to spread out has even brought new order to
the older studio, which is where I begin this odyssey.
These pages are intended for the clients to be able to follow the sculpture's progress,
and for those of you interested in my process as I go about making this 16-foot-tall
work of my heart.
The first cut
The basics of the base's structure are made from 12" square tubes of 1/4" steel.
They will be welded to this element of the base that will actually bolt to the oval concrete pad being poured at the site.
Now I thought I might put this all together before creating the widened part in the heart of the base,
but I decided to go ahead create it first. So, anxious as I am to see this rise, it'll take another couple of days' work.
Picture 1 - playing with the placement of the opening. Picture 2 - settled. Picture 3 - cut out.
Picture 5 - closed up. Picture 3 - and oriented.
So finally it is time to stand her up. Some last minute adjustments to the orientation,
a couple of temporary braces to hold the haves in place, and up she comes. My friend Wayne Vaughn
happens by at an opportune time, and my wife Clay documents it.
A little fine tuning and then weld them to the base.
And there she stands. I'm going to call that phase one complete.
REX HOSPITAL COMMISSION PHASE TWO
The last couple of weeks were interupted by a whirlwind trip from here to Tennessee where Clay and I picked
up a piece from a show, then headed to Georgia to deliver it to its permanent home. "Undulation" did well by taking
a best in show prize during its time in Knoxville, and then found a real job with some lovely people who were
thrilled to welcome him into their environs.
Otherwise I've progressed on the sculpture, although a lot of the work during this phase is of
the less visually dramatic variety. There have been bearing settings to create for the five components
in the upper part of the sculpture that will spin independently in the rings of the kinetic topper.
And that kinetic topper needs an armature. Unlike when I dream this stuff up in Photoshop, dropping components
willy-nilly into two-dimensional space, the non-virtual world requires structure. Winter's making its presence occasionally felt in usual
North Carolina fashion with cold, rainy days interspersed with bright, sunny and often temperate days. I'm getting my first experiences
of not really having to pay it much mind. The new studio is an amazing space to work in.
A long time ago I found a couple of interesting scrap yard wheel hubs that have been waiting for just
the right setting. Below you can see one mounted on the base. The other I'm using in the work stand
that now supports the armature in progress. I have plans for some more shaping and further
visual integration of the hub into the forms that support it. To the right you can see the stainless steel form that will
suspend in the widened area of the base. It awaits a setting and surface treatment.
Back on the armature, the axles are carefully tacked into the frame. They need to be as perfectly vertical as possible for
both visual and practical considerations. Good balance and a vertical setting will allow for ease of movement in light winds.
I closed out this Monday by adding in the short struts that will provide the last bit of rigidity and support to the four outlying axles.
Tomorrow's task is final welding and clean up of the finished armature.
Then it will be time to start decorating this tree.
Rex Hospital Phase Two Continued
The visual drama for this past week's work is all about beginning to define and add the shapes
to the armature. Before that could start there were a couple of days of welding and cleaning
of the armature. I suppose there were more opportunities for fireworks pics, but I think that
pictorial trope can be overplayed, and frankly I've been busy.
The making of the wind paddles - the shapes that actually catch the air - begins with a paper
pattern. Much like the editing process my wife uses in her writing, the contours
are sketched and refined in a graphic translation of that editorial process.
Cut out with scissors the shapes are then drawn on the sheet metal, cut out with the plasma
cutter, sanded, polished, and tacked to the armature. As the framework fills some of the weld
sites become more difficult to access comfortably, so I am finish welding, doing final clean-up,
and applying the clear sealer as I go.
The five independent elements are in place above a first ring of wind catchers. As I worked
on this past warm Sunday afternoon with the studio doors opened wide an occasional breeze
snuck in eliciting a few first, tentative revolutions - very satisfying.
REX HOSPITAL COMMISSION PHASE THREE
With the topper finished up it's been time to return to the base. First step
was a thorough clean up, sand her down to clean metal and a coating of primer.
Christmas Day - The sculpture's base gets a coat of primer, the first of many finish steps.
The next step involved putting the top and bottom together so I could work out how to hang the
tear drop shape that turns in the heart of the sculpture. That involved both the suspending of
the shape from above, and a stabilizing axle and bearing setting below. Finally it was time to see all the
elements together. The wind kicked up, and the dance commenced.
December 29, 2016: Before painting the base, I put all the pieces together for testing, testing, 1, 2, 3...
There's still a couple of details to work out, and then it will be time to take it all apart again
and finish painting the base.
Quickly it became time to disassemble and move indoors. All the detail pieces are done,
and with rain on the way painting would need to be done in the climate-controled studio.
The very last touch of welding before a second coat of primer and then the
finish coats was the matter of signing. Since I wanted to include the sculpture's
name on the signature plate, that name needed to be settled.
Sculpture names come to me in several ways, sometimes before the piece is begun,
sometimes as the piece evolves, sometimes from a comment or observation of
someone who sees the work in progress. But sometimes I need to call on my
author wife to help me when the poetry is just not coming through spontaneously.
With this sculpture destined for a hospital specializing in treatment of heart related
issues I had already invested a deal of heart inspired forms into the lines of
the piece. You may have noticed the heart with wings imagery in other art in the studio - a
recurring theme for me. With this sculpture I wanted those forms suggested without being
so overt that they took direct command of the visual language. Likewise with the name I wanted
something that spoke to the pulse of the repeating circulation of forms without being so droll as
to beat any pandering drum of the tritely obviousness.
Pulse, beat, rhythm all had their appeal, but it was with rhythm and a deep dive into Clay's
etymology library that we found Eurythmy, a word whose various definitions included harmonious
motion or proportion, rhythmical movement or order. What is the mission of any good
heart specialist but to support that kind of quality in that most central and vital of organs.
My first signature of the new year, 1/1/17.
And so on to color and installation; see the finished piece at the top of the page.
©2017 Mike Roig, All Rights Reserved