Saturday, August 3, 2013

The making of "Shall We Dance?"

For several years I have wanted to sculpt an alligator piece and in March of this year, I decided that it was time, especially after the Loveland High Plains Art Council called me and asked me to be part of their 30th year anniversary show, Sculpture in the Park in Loveland, Colorado. This also gave me a good reason to return to bronze after a three year break.

In 1972 I ran across some drawings of  Preston Blair, an American character animator, from the hippo-alligator dance in Fantasia's "Dance of the Hours" sequence. I  was familiar with.and inspired by his work as an animator for Walt Disney Production and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had always wanted to do something based upon these joyful images.

 During the past several years, I decided to focus on sculpting bas relief tiles in glazed ceramic instead of producing cast works in bronze. Creating tiles during the past couple of years has been an incredible study for me in rendering lifelike images in a very controlled sculptural sense. Bas-relief is a type of low relief sculpture. One has to learn to create an illusion of three dimensionality  in an almost two dimensional plane. It made me explore and focus intently on surface detail to a degree I had never done before.

I started exploring bronze casting in 2004 after working in ceramic sculpture for over 30 years and my initial approach to it was to continue what I had been doing with my ceramic sculptures which was one of expanded  and exaggerated animal forms that where cartoon-like and expressed human-like characteristics. It was fun to take these impressions into the bronze format. I would sculpt an original piece of sculpture in ceramic clay, bisque fire it, and then make a silicone mold.  I would then make a hollow wax from this mold which I then took to a foundry to be cast in metal.

A few years back I was commissioned to do a bronze sculpture of Pan. It was the first piece I sculpted using non drying clay which had an internal armature to support mass between thick and thin areas.    This piece, its uplifted weight and attention to detail was a turning point for me.  It was the most detailed and involved sculpture I had ever done and involved hiring a model which I worked with for over two months. It was an opportunity to explore realism, mythology, detail, and my own sense of design all within the same piece of work.

The next bronze piece that I sculpted  after Pan was called "Sheep Skate" and it was sculpted with the intent that the subject would be lifted  up into the air flying (possibly out of control) and sculpted completely in the round in great detail and  supported only by a single bronze support. This was liberating for a person like me who was use to  glazed ceramic clay sculpture and it"s fragile limitations. This piece was about movement and intricate surface detail and again, I used an internal armature and  non drying clay.

After a period of not having things cast in bronze, I returned to it this spring with the creation of "Shall We Dance".  It is of course, the dancing alligator piece that I have wanted to do for all these years. I felt confident that I could successfully merge extensive detail and sculptural movement within the same piece. For me, this piece explores a new aspect of playfulness with perhaps an bit of danger.

Dwight Davidson, Denver, CO 2013

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