Sep 03 2010

A couple of listings ago, I showed you my first and only attempt at marble sculpture, performed under the tutelage of Professor Kenneth Campbell at the University of Maryland, College Park. Professor Campbell was such an interesting person, and his work so acclaimed, I thought maybe you would like to learn more. For the other listing, go here.

Kenneth Campbell (1913 – 1986)

I found an attractive, compelling Kenneth Campbell sculpture, Nike, here to share with you.


“I … give to each stone an awareness of its own sense of gravity, making it seem as mobile as I am.” Kenneth Campbell speaking in 1962, University of Kentucky Art Gallery Exhibition Catalogue, 1967

“Kenneth Campbell “sees” the final image within each piece of stone
before starting to work, and rarely deviates from this initial idea.
He never uses power tools, but prefers to have direct contact with
the materials. Campbell manipulates the stone to give an appearance
of weightlessness, by balancing huge pieces at apparently impossible
angles. Nike may have been inspired by the Winged Victory of Samothrace,
a Hellenistic Greek sculpture that depicts the goddess Nike as she
descends from flight.” (Smithsonian label text)

The Winged Victory of Samothrace, also called the Nike of Samothrace, is a second century BC marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike (Victory). Since 1884, it has been prominently displayed at the Louvre and is one of the most celebrated sculptures in the world. Nike of Samothrace, discovered in 1863, is estimated to have been created around 190 BC. It was created to not only honor the goddess, Nike, but to honor a sea battle. It conveys a sense of action and triumph as well as portraying artful flowing drapery through its features which the Greeks considered ideal beauty. If you would like to read more, go here.

Here is an interesting tribute to Kenneth Campbell by one of his students from the University of Maryland, Ben Gage. Ben has a blog on his life as a sculptor and his tribute reveals many of Kenneth Campbell’s thought processes. In case you don’t go to read the tribute, I am enclosing some of Mr. Gage’s words as they are so interesting, revealing that the world of two dimensional painting is not as virtual as three dimensional sculpture. One cannot physically interact with a painting as it is placed on a wall, but sculpture can be appreciated virtually by the fact that it is with us in three dimensional space:

Mr. Gage writes, “As an artist, most of the time, except for your own work, you’re only allowed to look at other’s work. You cannot touch it. If it’s a painting, a photo or wall piece, you cannot look at the back of the piece to see how it’s made. If it’s a sculpture put against a wall you can’t get critical distance to understand the 3rd dimension. We learn to know Art mostly as a visual experience and that becomes a valuable virtual tool.

Stone sculpture does not exist only in the visual world. It can be heavy, big and dangerous. Injuries happen all the time. Handling it requires an intuitive reading of balance and weight. Damage usually happens on the first move. With the variety of forms we handle, from ancient to modern, the ability to adjust equipment, tools and personnel brought to the job, immediately, describes the quality of our efforts. Handling these sculptures in Museums, Galleries and Private Collections is an eye opener. You have to be perfect not just in the technical aspects of the project but also in the protocol with everyone involved. There’s a lot at stake. Communication of intention and then it’s execution defines us. Ambiguity equals doubt. As an example, generally, if you go to any collection with 19th century marble sculptures you will see that most if not all are chipped at the bases. It’s understandable for ancient sculptures to be damaged; visually the broken parts have been fuel for artists the last few centuries, but in more recent times the chipping is the result of failed moves and a reflection of the quality of the art handlers and their techniques. It is unacceptable now.”

Ben Gage, with his experience in moving heavy works of art, now moves many of the finer art pieces in and around Washington, D.C. He has a blog on art handling found here and displays a video of what it took to move a marble sculpture by Louise Bourgeois, a very famous sculptress who just died in 2010 after an illustrious career. She is so wonderful…that I can feel I’m going to have to continue this sculpture blog under the Sunbonnet Smart Beauty: Visual Arts tab and tell you all about Ms. Bourgeois soon. Stay tuned!

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