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Ascend The Climber

Posted by Chris Wray on Jun 23, 2010 in architecture and urban spaces, art, photography

The Climber

If you’re traveling in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, be sure to visit the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. Housed in the historic Monroe School building (a great example of Classical Revival architecture), the Children’s Museum features three floors of incredible sensory and motor stimulation. Their latest installation, dubbed The Climber, is a 37-foot high, 50-ton conglomeration of structural steel, fiberglass, wood, stainless steel aircraft cable, and found objects. My kids loved this wholly whimsical and totally hands- (and feet-) on installation. “Now this is the ultimate treehouse,” enthusiastically commented my son before dashing up one of its numerous gangways.

Various perches are cantilevered throughout the structure that allow visitors to climb into or onto, including wacky themed objects:

• Flying Bathtub
• Dream Boat
• Roof Top
• Fish Walk
• Recycled Rocket

The structure is thoughtfully constructed with a third-floor observation deck that permits visitors with limited mobility (or just too pooped to continue climbing) to observe the multi-level terrain of The Climber.

Clamber, balance, maneuver and discover — The Climber will engage your mind and muscles! Don’t miss it.

— Photos were taken with iPhone 3GS camera and Pro HDR app.

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Pauline Chapel revisited

Posted by Chris Wray on May 4, 2010 in architecture and urban spaces, art

Taking inspiration from Cassandre and Baumann
Inspired by the recent photo I took of the Pauline Chapel, I created a graphic illustration of this historic building. The strong play of light and shadow on the geometric stucco walls reminded me of the vintage 1930s travel posters of the great early 20th century graphic designer A.M. Cassandre (Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron). His poster style drew on the avant-garde influences of Cubism and Futurism and integrated strong use of typography.

NORMANDIE-Cassandre

Cassandre employed airbrush and friskets (masks) to create his works of poster art. My illustration was developed using vector-based software tools in Adobe Illustrator CS4. I exaggerated the proportions of the Pauline Chapel, emphasizing the height and perspective of the chapel’s prominent tower.

The composition was naturally framed by the Blue Spruce and Ponderosa Pine to the left and right of the chapel. I found that rendering vegetation proved to be challenging, so I chose a simplified approach. The German-born American print maker and painter Gustave Baumann created colorful, stylized woodcuts of southwestern landscapes. His stylistic approach served as inspiration for the two evergreen trees in my composition.




Pauline Chapel poster in the style of A.M. Cassandre

History of Pauline Chapel
Pauline Chapel is adjacent to St. Paul Church near the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. The Chapel is a notable example of ornate Spanish Colonial Revival and its antecedent style, Mission Revival Style, which both draw inspiration from the early Spanish missions of California. The Chapel was built in 1918 by the prominent Colorado Springs architectural firm of MacLaren and Hetherington under the close supervision of local Colorado Springs philanthropist Julie Penrose. The chapel is named after the Penrose’s daughter, Pauline Penrose. The Pauline Chapel was added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 26, 2001.

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Bronze Age is alive and well at Shidoni

Posted by Chris Wray on Nov 25, 2009 in art

Lost wax is not a lost art at the Shidoni Foundry near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Nestled in the Rio Tesuque Valley, among former apple orchards and majestic cottonwood tress, the Shidoni bronze art foundry is known around the world for its superb monumental bronze craftsmanship. Working artists who comprise Shidoni’s staff specialize in large scale work, as well as smaller one-of-a-kind casts and recast editions.

I had the pleasure of touring Shidoni’s 14,000 square foot facility during an autumn Colorado College reunion lead by anthropology professor emeritus Dr. Marianne Stoller. I invite you to enjoy the following photo and video blog, which document the labor intensive, multi-faceted process of lost wax bronze casting.

The final video in this post is courtesy of New Mexico PBS station KNME. This excerpted documentary demonstrates Shidoni’s innovative techniques and application of cutting edge material science during the complex process of casting metals. The video also features renown American sculptor Allan Houser, but fails to identify a woman sculptor, whom I believe is Glenna Goodacre, the well-known artist who designed the obverse of the Sacagawea dollar. I welcome your comments and correction if I’ve misidentified the interviewee.

Click to enlarge photos.

Model: large works like this use an inner foam structure to maintain the structural integrity of the clay or wax model.

Model: large works like this use an inner foam structure to maintain the structural integrity of the clay or wax model.

Latex mold: layers of latex are applied to the full-size sculpture mold.

Latex mold: layers of latex are applied to the full-size sculpture mold.

Mold-making: careful planning is required to determine how segments of a large sculpture will be disassembled and reconstructed.

Mold-making: careful planning is required to determine how segments of a large sculpture will be disassembled and reconstructed.

Wax casting: the flexible latex mold is held rigid in a plaster case and is now ready for wax casting.

Wax casting: the flexible latex mold is held rigid in a plaster case and is now ready for wax casting.

Wax cast: the wax cast is removed from the mold and hand-finished by a trained artisan. This step is the most critical in achieving the sculpture's original perfection.

Wax cast: the wax cast is removed from the mold and hand-finished by a trained artisan. This step is the most critical in achieving the sculpture

Investment: The wax cast is coated with many layers of liquid refractory ceramic, called an investment. The investment cures for several days.

Investment: The wax cast is coated with many layers of liquid refractory ceramic, called an investment. The investment cures for several days.

Burn-out: The wax cast inside the investment is fired in a kiln. This process bakes the investment shell and eliminates the wax, leaving a cavity for the bronze casting.

Burn-out: The wax cast inside the investment is fired in a kiln. This process bakes the investment shell and eliminates the wax, leaving a cavity for the bronze casting.

Patina: The finished bronze is treated with chemicals and heated with a flame. This gives the sculpture the desired color according to the artist's specifications.

Patina: The finished bronze is treated with chemicals and heated with a flame. This gives the sculpture the desired color according to the artist's specifications.

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Time revisited: series one

Posted by Chris Wray on Aug 31, 2009 in art, essays

In graduate school, I developed a series of essays and visual investigations on the concept of time. I thought it might be interesting to offer the following excerpts to my blog followers for your reflection and comment. At the risk of dating myself, nearly all my meaningful grad school work was done at the cusp of the digital revolution. High performance Mac desktops (remember the Mac II?) had just begun making their way into the graphic design scene. 3-D design software on the Mac platform was rudimentary at best, so I spent most of my creative hours building dimensional models in paper, foam-core and wire. I then photographed the models using an SLR 35mm camera with Ektachrome film (the significance of using Ektachrome slide film will be discussed in my next blog post).

My initial studies began with readings about the historical and cultural meanings of time. My body of work concluded with a more personal interpretation: time as a creative process and catalyst for growth.

Series One: Eastern and Western interpretations

I found the Eastern concept of time to be poetic and holistic. For example, the Chinese word for universe, (yǔzhòu), consists of compound characters that literally mean space-time. Chinese philosophers viewed the passage of time from eternity to present as zhòu and space in all directions, above and below as .

Read more…

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Three pioneers in American photography

Posted by Chris Wray on Jul 13, 2009 in art

The three photographers Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, and Frederick Sommer irrevocably charted a new course in photography during the mid-twentieth century. Collectively, these photographers pushed classical photography beyond its traditional representational boundaries to one of pure abstraction and metaphor. I had the pleasure of recently seeing At the Crossroads of American Photography: Callahan, Siskind, Sommer, a featured exhibition at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA). According to SMoCA, this is the first full comparative exhibition of these three pioneers. All self-taught, Callahan, Siskind, and Sommer elevated photography to fine art, using seminal techniques and creative compositions to achieve remarkably fine art.

Paracelsus, © Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation

Paracelsus, © Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation

I found the exhibition, consisting of some 150 high quality prints, to be an intimate and meditative experience. While many of the works I had seen reproduced in art history books, several were heretofore unseen; on loan from private collections. A favorite work of my wife and mine is entitled Paracelsus. This gelatin silver print was created without a camera, using a synthetic negative. Listen to a detailed audio description of Paracelsus from the Norton Simon Museum.

At the Crossroads of American Photography: Callahan, Siskind, Sommer had been held over through August 9, 2009. If you’re in the Scottsdale area, this show is well worth the price of admission. A large format catalogue of beautiful reproductions is available from the SMoCA Store.

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Motion in repose: sculpture revisited

Posted by Chris Wray on May 21, 2009 in art

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I’m revisiting some early wooden sculptures I built. More accurately these works are assemblages, as they incorporate found objects (rock and rope) along with wooden forms that I’ve created.

My work reflects a fascination with physical properties: weight, mass, force, and gravity. I feel mechanical devices best demonstrate the qualities of motion because they embody the principles of physics. I was also inspired by the invention drawings of Leonardo da Vinci.

What does it all mean? Well, as a child I spent hours pulling apart old watches, clocks, electric motors and the like in an effort to understand how they worked. This inquisitiveness gave way to understanding and further curiosity as I examined the contraptions, their connections, articulations, and transference of forces. It is this phenomena of intrigue that I want to convey in my artwork. More specifically, my assemblages are a celebration of human curiosity, exploration, and invention.

I feel that my wooden sculptures bridge the gap between design, art, and science. Although the work is subjective, it nonetheless addresses universal experience of intrigue. Have a look at the gallery of images and let me know what you think.

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