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.

Nike

“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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Aug 27 2010

My marble sculpture is not at a museum,
but in our rock garden.

Everyone who decides to attend college eventually has to take a course that they wouldn’t have otherwise selected, to fulfill a requirement or an open time slot in their schedule. Colleges want graduates to be well rounded in their field of study, not just proficient in their favorite courses.

So, that’s how I became a sculptor of marble. I was a drawing and painting major working on my studio art degree at the University of Maryland in the early 1970s, and to complete my degree, I was required to take a sculpture class. I had watched a talented sorority sister, also in studio art, sculpt a clay figure with a wire armature inside to support it and that was the class I wanted to take. But, that class was full and so I had to decide whether to wait a semester or go ahead and sign up for the only other sculpture class fitting my schedule, a marble sculpting class. Well, I thought, how hard could it be?

Well, it was really hard. The physicality of marble sculpture is not to be taken lightly. On the first day of class I found myself standing on a HUGE block of marble with a jack hammer trying to hold it steady while I was shaken beyond what I had ever thought possible. Kenneth Campbell, a renown marble sculptor, was the Professor and he insisted we learn the art from start to finish. I did not expect to be hammering off large chucks of marble from the huge block I was standing on, enough for each person in the class, but I had to jump up and take my turn like everyone else.

A sculpting tool kit offered by Sculpture House.

Then I had to learn to sharpen the tools, the chisels and points on a sharpening stone with oil as a lubricant.  Next, I had to learn to hold the tools correctly and hit them with the 2 1/2 pound hammer to flick off a tiny chip of stone. Finally, I had to learn that my hands would be “ringing” with the feeling of the hammer hitting the chisel long after the sculpting session had ended. It was a long and laborious process, my marble sculpture class that semester. One that gave me the highest respect for anyone who completes a marble sculpture. Especially getting it shiny smooth by using the progressively smaller sizes of abrasive grits rubbed over and over on every surface. What I learned that year was, completing a marble sculpture takes nothing short of a miracle.

I wouldn’t know how that miracle happens because my marble sculpture was never finished to that level of perfection. Even so, my scuplture and I spent so much time together that I now display it proudly: as a petunia support and chipmunk watering hole. I feel both petunias and chipmunks should have nothing but the best.

And, every time I go to the University of Maryland and am walking by the Night – Day sculpture created by Professor Campbell and photographed below, I say, “Hi!” to him and wish him well.

Kenneth Campbell (1913 – 1986)

When I was enrolled in Mr. Campbell’s marble sculpture class in 1972, he was installing his Night – Day sculpture on the University of Maryland, College Park campus. Marble sculpture is physically so demanding. I mean these blocks are HEAVY. It is amazing how he was able to balance them so that they are in place today, just as he left them, thirty-eight years ago. (Thirty-eight years ago? I was watching him thirty-eight years ago?…sigh…)

“Night – Day” sculpture resembling Stonehenge along the path between Holzapfel and H. J. Patterson Halls at the University of Maryland, College Park; sculpted by Kenneth Campbell, art professor emeritus, who taught stone carving for fifteen years; created in 1972, the pieces represent the various stages of “enlightenment”

If you are interested in seeing this sculpture listed in D.C. Memorials or view other sculptures in natural settings in the Washington, D.C. area, click here.

“High Class in a Minute”

In this video, we can watch marble sculptress Jill Burkee use both hand tools and power tools as she breaks her sculpture free from a block of marble. While watching Ms. Burkee, you will be listening to Luciano Pavarotti, the world famous tenor opera star, singing Franck’s Panis Angelicus with some Ave Maria at the end for good measure. This is quite a dose of High Class. I hope that if it’s first thing in the morning, you’ve had your coffee.



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