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Last week, I was in Birmingham, Alabama, for the National Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art & Practices (NCCCIAP). The backdrop for this biennial event was Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark, a truly a remarkable venue that stands out as America’s only blast furnace from the last century being preserved and interpreted as an historic industrial site. There was a great slate of activities for the NCCCIAP, including hands-on demonstrations, mold making workshops, student cupola competitions, guest furnace demonstrations, panel discussions, and art exhibitions. The grassroots, intergenerational character of the NCCCIAP was incredibly inspiring, and I hope to get back to Sloss for the next iteration of this event.

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Here are two recently completed cast iron school desk sculptures, from the 39 & Holding series. To create these sculptures, I first placed sunflowers on the desk tops, and then resin bonded sand molds were packed around these forms. After the molds hardened, the desks & sunflowers were removed and the pieces were cast as open-faced molds. The first piece in this series collapsed during casting, but its irregular form was incredibly intriguing, so I decided to work with the casting in this raw state. After being cast, these pieces were heated & finished with a brass brush & paste wax, which gave them a rich, lustrous finish.

The title of this series references the classic Jerry Lee Lewis song “39 & Holding,” a tune about the inevitable cycles of aging which became considerably more relevant in the past couple of years as I transitioned out of my thirties. I decided to carve thirty-nine hash marks into each of the molds, creating a deep, gestural tally to signify the passage of time. Sunflowers have long been featured in both art and religion as symbolic markers of growth and decay, and they were a prominent fixture in the rural landscape where I grew up, so I had a range of conceptual, art historical, and auto-biographical reasons for using these flowers as imagery.