Sunday, January 10, 2010


Here's a portrait of my dad I did last year for my sculpture class as my final project. I did this piece the same semester as my bronze sculpture Prayer.

wood portraiture@Sacramentality

Father, wood, 2008

This was my first experience working with wood, and I really like it. This was also my first time making a reductive sculpture, (for the non-art folks that just means rendering a form by removing material instead of adding it). I really enjoyed it, I should do it again sometime. This was the most physically demanding piece of art I've ever made, but I loved it. I enjoyed the manual labor aspect of it. It's one of those pieces that you sweat and bleed for (until I acquired gloves to protect my hands). Eric from the wood shop at my university, kind man that he is took me to his house so he could cut my log and rough it out some. Then I chiseled away at it but was getting nowhere fast, until I went home for Thanksgiving break and used my dad's zig saw and some other tools, along with lended chisels and a handy mallet that was given to me for this purpose. (Anyone who wants to embark on wood sculpture I highly recommend using a mallet instead of a regular hammer unless you want to miss the chisel half the time and smash up your fingers...not fun). I used photographic references for this but my dad was around in case I needed to look at him seeing as how I was working in his shop.

I couldn't help but think as I was working on this about the spiritual implication of the medium. As I worked I reflected on the significance of Jesus the carpenter and felt a connection to Him in that way as I was working on this piece. That's not to say that wood is a better, holier or more spiritual medium, of course, just that Jesus had a special relationship to it as he walked this earth during his "hidden" life before his three year ministry which I find intriguing. To work with wood you need to be patient, strong and firm yet delicate and gentle. I believe that Jesus working with wood prepared him for working with people, work that would demand those same qualities of gentle strength. Similarly, sensitivity and firmness is not only a quality required to bring a sculpture to completion, but is also demanded in our relationships as we labor to help bring others to fulfillment by drawing the best out of them.

It seemed in a sense a bit like an ironic role reversal how I was in a sense "mothering" this sculpture of my father into being. I suppose on one level, if only in the recesses of my mind, this sculpture was an exploration of a man's fatherhood and how it is meant to be a reflection of the Fatherhood of God the Father. Perhaps this is why I titled this piece Father as opposed to Dad. I never address my dad as "father".

Technical note, if you work with wood that still has a significant amount of moisture in it it will crack as it dries. There is nice big ol' crack in this sculpture now because I worked it when it was still wet.

Also, I believe the medium served the subject well. The rawness and roughness of the wood is very masculine and fitting in expressing my dad.

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