Creating Gaia

Creating Gaia

Now that the Celestial Fish is off to GA, I have the studio space to create a piece I’ve been thinking about doing for quite some time, an over-scale human head in stainless steel.

Photographed a model in 360 degree views and projected the photographic profile reference on the wall of the studio and traced the outlines in thin tape for an 9ft tall and 8ft wide head. Got several quotes for ss rod and bars to begin fleshing out the head with, and ordered 195 lbs. of stainless from Stewart Stainless in Tampa. Also visited a surplus metals company in Port Richey to pick up 2 twelve foot long 2” x ¼” flat bars.

Full scale reference drawings for Gaia.

With material in hand and a full-scale sketch on the wall I began forming the first outline shapes. In two mornings work the bare profile shapes were freestanding in stainless. It was encouraging to see the head going from flat profiles into three dimensions.

After a week of work the piece is progressing well. The overall shape and proportions are defined. It was great having new assistant David Hauser around for the first four days to help with the bending and placement of the many unwieldy 12 ft long pieces of rods and bar stock we used to make the armature. He’s away for ten days over Thanksgiving and I’m looking forward to his return.

With the overall outlines in place, the first detail I worked on constructing was the nose, surely one of the most subtle and difficult shapes to achieve. After much careful measurement and bending, the result was better than I anticipated. Next, I tackled the lips. I considered a variety of approaches to forming the lips, changing my mind no less than four times on paper. Finally, I chose a multiple horizontal band method which took two mornings work, but yielded a beautiful result. The face is starting to reveal itself.

I’m enjoying the process. It’s nice to arrive at the studio each morning and have a clear agenda for the day. The amount of work to be done on a large piece like this necessitates deliberate planning and I’m making an effort to be patient with the slow progression.

The head progressing in stainless.

As I carefully add pieces to the head, day by day, it continues to develop. As of November 22, the sculpture has absorbed over 300 linear feet of stainless round rods and bar stock. I’m using the heavier stock to sure up the neck and lower parts of the jaw, leaving the lighter gauge material for the upper structure.

Chris Urso, photographer at the Tampa Bay Times came by to shoot some of the initial production for a video he’s making about my work. He set up a remote time lapse camera to capture the work over the span of a month.

After 17 days of work, the piece it is 60% done. It has absorbed almost all of the 550 linear feet of stainless stock earmarked for its construction. The proportions are balanced, and the woven web of steel lines become tighter towards the face and looser in the back and top of the head.

Through a planned entryway in the back of the head, you can walk into the interior of the head and stand inside her “mind”

Put aside working on this piece for several weeks while I worked on the Pompano Beach Steelhead project. But, I’m ready to dive back in first thing in January 2018. In the meantime I found some small scrap sheets of stainless I’ll be using to fill in some of the areas between the strips and around the eyes.

The eyes are the most critical feature. They can make or break the piece. I was initially torn over exactly how to create them. After sketching various approaches, I am gravitating towards an interpretation of a classic design used in stone carving. The idea is to use two large 11” hemispheres to form the eyeballs. Inside, a smaller shallow concave shape forms the iris, and another still smaller concave hemisphere in the center is the pupil. This interplay of nested concave and convex shapes will cast dimensional shadows as light plays across the face. Welding bead texture can be added to further enhance the iris. The precise placement of the eyes in relationship to the other facial features and each other is crucial.

As the eyes took shape, I was surprised at the amount of time they were taking to fabricate. But it was time well spent as they brought the face to the next level.

The eyes bring Gaia to life.

My assistant Avery cleaned up all the weld marks and spatter with phosphoric acid and it worked like a charm. Her face is gleaming stainless now.

She’s been accepted to a one year show on loan in Lakeland, FL. Even though she’s not complete, she is in good enough shape for this installation. The stipend will cover the cost of production with additional awards available for best in show. I’ll deliver and install on Feb 19th with the help of Jeff Stewart, AKA alpha male art installer.

While she’s exhibited in Lakeland I’ll have a year to collect more stainless and finish up the ears which are still laying on the studio floor. It’ll also give me time to consider how far I want to take the final design when I get her back.

The eyes appear blue as the mirror polished iris’ reflect the sky.

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