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In 1956, sculptor Milton Horn created carved stone pylons for the West Virginia University School of Medicine Morgantown Campus. These four towering columns contain eight carved relief scenes celebrating the history of medicine. As a tribute to his late wife Estelle, Horn donated his original plaster studies of these pylons to the West Virginia University School of Medicine Charleston Campus in 1982. In a collaborative effort between West Virginia University Health Sciences and the West Virginia University College of Creative Arts, I was commissioned to reproduce these panels for display at the West Virginia University School of Medicine Eastern Campus in Martinsburg, symbolically linking our university’s three medical school campuses. I delivered and installed the first panel in August, and the second panel was delivered in mid-October. I am on track to finish and deliver three more panels this academic year, and I expect to fully complete this project by fall 2017.

The Eastern Pylons project is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever undertaken, and I’m really pleased with the results. This project has allowed me to combine my knowledge of casting and metal fabrication methods to create large scale finished artworks, while also affording me on-the-job training in the use of new art-making materials, such as Winterstone-casting mix and Smooth-On Equinox silicone rubber mold putty. Working at this scale is certainly not a one-person job, so I am forever grateful to my student workers Cornelius Hugo, Kevin Brennan, and Matt Jarrett, as their hard work and camaraderie has been instrumental in the success of this project.

 

 

 

This past semester, I participated in a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics ) education project at Morgantown’s North Elementary School. Sponsored by a grant from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, this project had three primary components, one of which was to create a garden environment for attracting regional birds. My WVU School of Art and Design colleague Joseph Lupo helped the North students use their bird research to create mini comics, while my sculpture students and I focused on designing and building a birdhouse structure.

To begin the birdhouse component of this project, my sculpture students were tasked with creating steel butterflies, flowers, snails, and leaves, which tied into our classroom study of forging, welding, and other metal fabrication techniques. Meanwhile, 4th grade students from North were utilizing their bird research, drawing these creatures onto steel panels with chalk. I took these panels back to our studio and cut them out with a plasma torch, and then these bird panels and my sculpture students’ flora and fauna were cleaned up and painted in multiple bright colors.

I set wooden posts in concrete and built the final birdhouse structure with my friend Aaron Lutz, a WVU forestry program student working at North this year with the AmeriCorps VISTA program. The completed piece contains approximately nine birdhouses, 33 steel bird panels, 33 steel items created by my sculpture students, and a stainless steel nameplate. This project gave my students and I the opportunity to collaborate with students, teachers, and administrators at North in a truly unique manner, and out of the things I did in this amazingly busy school year, this was probably the most enjoyable project to take on.

 

 

I recently finished work on a solar tree prototype, a collaborative project between the School of Art and Design and the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at West Virginia University. This yearlong endeavor involved our sculpture program working with Ramana Reddy, professor of computer science and electrical engineering in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources and his students. The overarching goal of the solar tree was to create a comfortable, shaded area, utilizing the electricity for those enjoying the tree’s shade to charge electronic devices, gain wireless internet access, and connect with its informational interface. There was a dynamic quality to this project, as it brought together individuals from various backgrounds and areas of expertise in an attempt to tackle some of the pressing issues of our time. Now that the solar tree has made its debut, we can begin the dialogue on finding this structure a more permanent home on campus and modify the prototype to make it more appropriate for long term display.

Here to There, an exhibition by faculty from the West Virginia University School of Art and Design, opened recently at the Huntington Museum of Art. All 14 of our studio art faculty participated in Here to There, so this exhibit does an excellent job showcasing the hallmarks of our program, including a breadth of creative approaches, attention to matters of craftsmanship, and engagement with contemporary issues. Here to There is on display from March 19-June 12, 2016.

 

In fall 2015, I taught an advanced sculpture course in the West Virginia University School of Art and Design focusing specifically on metal casting processes. One of the assignments for this class involved creating both a cast bronze sculpture and a customized container for this sculpture. I asked the students to think of this project as a 21-st century reliquary, engaging broader conceptual issues of memory, belief, history, family, spirituality, and time. There was also a strong writing and research component to this assignment, which enabled students to develop their ideas more fully over the course of the term.

For this project, students were required to make their bronze patterns using 3D printing and scanning processes. Most of these students had never cast bronze before, so 3D printing their patterns forced them to work at a smaller, more accessible scale. This technology also helped students get intricate pattern detail much faster than conventional pattern making. In addition, PLA plastic patterns can be burned out of investment molds just like wax patterns, which allowed students to learn the most fundamental principles of lost wax casting.

Students began this project by gathering family heirlooms, memorabilia, keepsakes, and other personal objects they deemed important. Next, they used a rotational tabletop 3D scanner to record these objects. Some students worked directly, scanning items imbued with personal significance & sentimental attachment, while other students invented or modified objects that evoked these strong qualities of memory. From these scans, PLA plastic prints were created using a MakerBot Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printer. To offset the material needs of this endeavor, I was happy to receive an Academic Innovation Technology Integration Grant from the West Virginia University Teaching & Learning Commons Sandbox

Students then assembled these patterns onto wax sprue systems & embedded them in traditional plaster and sand investment molds. After the patterns were evacuated from the molds in a burn out kiln, these hot molds were transported to the foundry area and filled with molten bronze. Students then explored finishing and patina processes to clean up their bronze castings, while resolving the final version of their sculptures using a variety of fabrication, construction, and display methods. I think my students successfully bridged the gap between traditional sculpture making processes and emerging technologies with this project, resulting in some excellent solutions to the idea of a contemporary reliquary.

My solo exhibition Color Coded opened recently at Washington and Jefferson College’s Olin Art Gallery, marking the first time that the entire Color Coded series (2005-2012) has been exhibited in the same venue. The most fun part of this show, besides getting nearly a decade’s worth of anatomically-inspired artwork under one roof, was creating a large scale graphite wall drawing specifically for the gallery. Drawing directly on the wall definitely added a fresh new dimension to the overall exhibit, and the monochromatic quality of the graphite was a nice contrast to the layered, multicolored qualities of the works in this series. Color Coded is on display from October 30-December 6, 2015.

After an intense summer filled with numerous teaching obligations & round-the-clock art-making, I am happy to announce the opening of my solo exhibition Match Cut in the West Virginia University Creative Arts Center’s Laura Mesaros Gallery. On view from September 1-October 2, this show explores our collective need for classification and organization, especially as the desires and limitations of our organic bodies conflict with this quest for order. I use various fabrication techniques and meticulous craftsmanship to explore these conceptual interests, manipulating iconic imagery & familiar objects from our educational, governmental, and scientific institutions in order to draw attention to the impermanent & transitory nature of cultural authority.

This exhibition takes its title, Match Cut, from a film editing technique where seamless transitions between scenes help draw together the visual, metaphorical connections between objects and actions. I drew inspiration from this cinematic device, creating a series of cast & forged metal sculptures, mixed media panel works, and manipulated found object pieces that are cozily familiar yet imbued with surreal, dreamlike qualities. I really like the way this new body of work fits together, and I look forward to creating more artwork in the same vein.

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.

This past month has been a period of great activity in the West Virginia cast iron community. Shepherd University hosted their fall iron pour early in November and a week later, the sculpture program at West Virginia University hosted our fall iron pour. I am pleased that Shepherd University sculpture coordinator Christian Benefiel, Fairmont State University sculpture coordinator Jeremy Entwistle, and myself have continued to collaborate and get our student involved to make these events run in a safe and efficient manner. The palpable teamwork and camaraderie exhibited by all participants has affirmed my belief that a vibrant cast iron community is emerging in our state. Here’s some images and videos from our events, big thanks goes out to students Violet Goode and Hannah Hicks for documenting our iron pour at WVU.

I had an amazing time this past month teaching in the Mountaineer Summer Drawing Academy, a three-day art camp for high schoolers held on the campus of West Virginia University. After spending the better part of the past year planning for this event, I was thrilled to see our joint venture between the College of Creative Arts and the WVU Extension Service come together so successfully!

Students received instruction in both observational and mixed media drawing, while also exploring “Exquisite Corpse” drawings, a group collaborative exercise made famous by 20th-century Surrealists. Other camp highlights included button making, a storytelling session with entertainer Adam Booth, and various interaction with State 4-H Days participants. Now that we’ve had a successful maiden voyage for this camp, I am looking forward to planning next year’s session and growing both the number of participants and the scope of this program.