The following is excerpted from my journal.
(Video of the project can be seen here.)
Last month I put in a proposal to create a large corTEN steel mustache sculpture to replace the one that is made of foam at the Dali Museum in St. Pete, FL. My idea was a large steel parallax mustache made up of 4-5 profiles.
I had just about given up hope of getting a response to my proposal and photoshop concept image when I got a call from Brian Iacofano at the museum saying that the director, Hank Hine, was very interested in my idea and to give them a firm cost for the piece.
I got into gear and created a DXF cad drawing of the piece with 5 profiles and emailed it off to 4 different waterjet/steel suppliers in the area for a material and cutting quote.
After I sent the Dali the quote for constructing a 12’ wide mustache they asked for quotes on a 17, 20 and 25 foot wide stash.
They chose the 17’ wide mustache and I set myself to the task of building a small steel maquette. They told me they were not asking any other artist’s for models and all that remained was the final approval and the signing of a contract. Acceptance of the maquette would seal the deal.
I asked for a modest stipend to create the maquette, which they agreed to. I made some size and scale calculations, drew out paper stencils for the 4 profiles, cut them out of 16g steel with the plasma cutter, finished the edges and welded the pieces together over two mornings work. It looks excellent, straight and balanced while being mounted on a dark stained walnut base. All that remains is a corTEN oxidized looking finish complete with texture lines that will simulate hair-like grooves in the full scale piece. Brian came to the studio and picked up the maquette on Friday and was wowed by the fish and ibis, etc. Monday morning I got the call…the director…loves it and I have been awarded the commission.
Wednesday. Wasted no time in getting the paper stencils I made for the maquette over to the waterjet cutter in Lutz to digitize. Once I know how much steel it will take to cut the full size profiles, I can get it ordered through Tampa Steel and the profiles can be cut ASAP after the material is delivered. Turns out It will fit on two 6’ x 10 sheets. I’m going over to Lutz on Monday to approve the final CAD drawings that will be used to cut the steel. If all goes according to plan, I should have the whole month of November to assemble the piece and get it installed at the museum by December 9th when they are planning a VIP unveiling gala for it in conjunction with the opening of the Frida Kahlo exhibit.
Mary Anderson, my contact at Tampa Steel, said they want to do some publicity on the sculpture after it’s completed to display to their customers the range of use of their materials.
Brian introduced me via email to Kathy Greif the Chief Marketing Officer and Chelsey Marketing Manager at the Dali. They said they were running promotional ideas for my mustache by their outside PR firm.
It took 3 hours on the computer, screen sharing with the water jet guy for me to remotely re-draw the profiles to my satisfaction. We also created the flange, gussets and holes/slots for the mounting pipe. Got the steel delivered and it’s going to be cut on Friday, so if all goes well, I will have the profiles in my studio by early November.
Built a long wooden mounting jig for the support pipes that will enable me to bolt them together in the exact orientation needed. This will help insure the two halves of the mustache line up. The Dali is going to be responsible for the excavation and concrete pour.
Today the profiles were cut from the corTEN sheets and all went well. The first major hurdle is cleared. They are palletised and ready for transport to the studio on Tuesday of next week. Len from WEDU project and Linda from Tampa Steel were on hand to photograph and video the process.
November 1. The profiles and pipes were delivered to the studio this afternoon and they looked superb. The forklift took them off the truck and loaded them into the studio. I stacked one side up on the table using wood blocks as spacers and everything was perfect, the scale, the relationship of the profiles and the space between them, all good.
November 2. My assistant Grace helped me cut up and move the large drop plates from the studio floor and stack the pieces on the side wall. We also started grinding the “hair” texture lines into one of the large profiles. Which turned out to be as difficult as I had anticipated. A few small slips were hardly noticeable but made me want to add more random marks to make it look more hairlike. Linda from Tampa steel was on hand to photograph the morning’s work. One fortuitous discovery we hit upon when wiping off the sharpie markings was that acetone made the steel turn a beautiful dark tone and removed the orange rust spots completely. How long it will last will be interesting to see. I ended up abandoning grinding in the hair texture in favor of gouging them in with the plasma cutter. This made for much cleaner and quicker work.
November 9. Over the past week the mustache has come together remarkably well. Today I welded the last of the profiles together and laid the whole piece out on the floor with the support pipes. Brian came by to get a tracing of the largest profile so he could make a mock up for Hank to determine how far apart the two halves should be. They decided on a 14” gap, which is much greater than I had originally planned. Brian’s going to start excavation for the pipes on site with a goal of getting the piece installed by Thanksgiving.
I suggested the Dali Museum approach Tampa Steel Supply with the idea of becoming a corporate sponsor of the piece. Seems they liked the idea and made a deal to have their name displayed on a plaque as the sponsor of the sculpture for a year.
I made the support pipe positioning jig to insure proper alignment of the two sides. It ended up being over 13’ long. I also made two more spacers, one for under each pipe that will insure they are both set at the proper height. It’s critical that the support pipes be set exactly right so that the two halves of the moustache line up evenly.
November 14. Put the last welds on the support pipes today and the piece is ready for transport to the site. Embedding the support pipes in the ground should happen later this week. After the concrete sets, the mustache can be bolted in place for a Thanksgiving Day debut.
November 15. Embedded the pipes this morning with Brian and crew. All went according to plan with the mounting jig working perfectly. We bolt on the sculpture next Monday morning.
November 21. Arrived with the profile sections stacked in the truck at 7:30am at the Dali Museum. It was a crisp 52 degree morning. Brian’s guys lifted the mustache sections one by one out of the truck and hoisted them into position on the support pipes while I screwed on the nuts. It took ten minutes to mount. My sister Linda showed up and I was happy to see her and have her share in this crowning moment. The slots I cut in the mounting flanges came in handy as I had to adjust the tips to match in the center and it worked perfectly. Several hours of photos afterwards and the Dali mustache is complete!