Art School: Semester 5, Week 15 — Sculpture

Jeff Powell
7 min readApr 12, 2019

This was the class that ate me alive this term. So many hours went into it that I cannot begin to count them. But it’s done now, and there were two crits this week. The first was of our final sculptures, and the second was of our cast aluminum bas relief pieces.

I’ll start with the big works, and remember you should be able to click to enlarge these pictures if you desire to.

First up, Zach created this piece:

That’s Zach himself, standing behind his work in the middle photo.

The cube floats on four recessed feet, which gives it that shadow below it. The squiggles are made of soapstone, polished on the outer faces.

This work really fascinated me. As I watched it come together I really didn’t know what to make o fit, but the end result is fascinating, and the way he placed the stone pieces makes the viewer walk around it. I really like the work in the end, though I couldn’t have predicted that two weeks ago.

Next up was Natalie’s piece:

There are a lot of different materials in this one, and there was a long conversation about the colour combination she chose. It was deliberate, and it provoked various opinions, and some discussion about how she might have made different choices. In the end, though, this piece is still very much something only Natalie would create, just as Zach’s piece really felt like a work he would make. Personal styles were very present in this project, for all of us, and that was fascinating too.

Here’s Jessica’s monster of foam and plaster:

That’s Jess dusting it on the left, and a full view of the work on the right. My other photos didn’t turn out that well, alas.

Jess had knee surgery this term, and that set her back weeks, but she still pulled this off in the end. It’s quite a piece, and the thing you need to know about Jess is that she is very tall. On the plinth, this piece is well over six feet high. It’s a dominating thing, and it pulls your eyes to it.

The texture differences are just as interesting as the colour differences, and I think the work is very impressive. It’s been a lot of fun sharing this class with Jess, as her approach to things is usually very direct, and we often have similar opinions about things that come up in class discussions.

Then we saw a piece by one of the two Heathers in the class:

The work is sort of a safe space. The exterior is a framework covered with hand dyed fabric. The interior is covered in black fabric and hand croched stars hang from the ceiling. LED lights blink as well, and the floor is soft and comfortable. Heather started planning this work before the term began, and she put a ton of hours into it.

I was next up with one of my two pieces. This is the one you’ve seen me suffer through the most this term:

Yes, people were encouraged to touch the stone. I won’t say much more here, except that it has a title now. The 13th Labour. Hercules had 12, so it seemed appropriate.

Emma brought us this work:

Emma not pictured.

On the left is the initial presentation, but it turns out most (if not all) of us liked it in the “upsidedown” orientation better. On the left it looks functional, like it is meant to hold plants or something. On the right it is clearly (and only) sculptural, and many questions come up as you examine it. Emma’s welding is quite good, and the work is made of steel and yarn.

Next we saw Owen’s project:

It’s hard to tell here, but the white items in the sandbox are very disturbing casts of a ghost like face and head. The sand has discoloured the plaster to make it look like bone, and when you expose them in this setting the result is a bit unnerving. I’m not convinced about the presence of the buckets and sand castle, but the intent is to draw people in to actually manipulate the work and expose the contents. Very interesting.

Hannah brought us this:

That’s a lot of cast pine cones, in cement, resin, and aluminum. Hannah was very taken with the casting processes we learned earlier this term, and continued her exploration of them with this project. There are hundreds of them in that pile, and we stood in the rain discussing them for a long time. They are quite pretty, and represent a huge amount of work.

Finally, we have the other Heather’s sculpture. This is the same Heather I shared design class with:

She also enjoyed the casting process, and cast her own foot from the same mould seven times, with some minor variations in the casting material as well. The mould was made from something called Alja-Safe, which is a strange material that is safe for use when casting from life, but which has a limited lifetime and breaks down over time. Heather used that fact to create a work that shows the degradation of the casts coming from that mould as she continued to work with it. It’s quite striking, and the mirror provides a different perspective on the castings as you examine them. Very fun stuff!

That’s what we formally critiqued as far as the final projects go. As you may recall, though, I created another work from the chips of the first:

Not the best photo, I know, but I didn’t remember to take any until things were being put away (to wait for jurying into the graduate show).

I like this piece, and I look forward to seeing what the reaction to it is from the jury members. It is titled Metamorphosis.

Finally, we also discussed our aluminum bas relief works. Here they are as a group:

We were each creating a domestic scene (very loosely interpreted) and most of us worked from photos. Mine is the middle one of the dog laying on the bed. (That’s Skookie, for those that know the pack.)

Here’s a close up of that work:

The aluminum casting process is very interesting, and I could really get into it if we did something other than a domestic scene. But it was a nice learning exercise, and I think the various works were fascinating once again in how they related to the students who created them. So much personality comes out in odd ways, it’s amazing.

Someday I’d like to do more metal work, but who knows when or if that will be possible.




Jeff Powell

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.