Cast into Life - my first bronzes

After two months of waiting, my first two sculptures were ready to pick up from the bronze caster last Saturday. I had not sculpted at all in the two weeks leading up to this day, feeling unsure about what the final product would look like. Questions filled my mind about if the time spent on refining and re-sculpting my waxes was going to be worth it. So on Saturday I was more anxious than excited to see the bronzes.

As I walked in and saw my castings on the table, my stomach turned around. They were full of pits and the once smooth wax texture was now rough like the surface of the moon. Yakov the caster came over and asked me how I was doing. I told him that I had not been so well, because of being highly sensitive and feeling overstimulated and without focus. He shared with me a beautiful metaphor of a plant that faces challenging conditions. The plant will draw itself back into the smallest part where it can survive and wait for times to brighten up in order to grow and blossom again.

As we were talking I held the bronzes in my hand and studied the surface. The second shock was the harsh contrast between the rough parts and the areas that Yakov had sanded with power tools to conceal the pouring channels. Those parts also did not look like what I had intended. I expressed my disappointment with the result and asked him why the surface was so rough. He told me that these pits are impossible to avoid when casting solid sculptures like this and that the chance of bigger damage was like a roll of the dice. The pits could be welded closed and sanded back in shape, but that would be very costly.

At that moment it seemed like all my work had been in vain. Hundreds of hours and boxes full of sculptures in my cabinet felt lost. While driving home, I wondered why this hurt so much. There was more than just the thought of losing some work. A deep pain was triggered and I did not yet know what it was.

Of course the whole reason for making art is to find a way to communicate something deep inside, and in this project I wanted to create the softness and the smoothness that I deeply crave for. An object that is exciting and dynamic, but also easy to digest and restful. As a child, my life was like that, easy and fun. It seemed like this would always stay the same. But then my parents started to argue daily and unexpectedly they told me that they were going to divorce. In that period, most things in life changed for the worse. The family was broken up, sadness became normal, school was difficult, I lost my friends group and moved to different houses about once every year.

This has become a theme in my life. Things that start with a lot of positive hope, but then get mangled by the hardness of life. The way these sculptures came out was a direct metaphor for one of my most painful spots. So often I have pure and smooth ideas and intentions, but they always get damaged, broken, or corrupted when they come into existence.

There is a beauty to be found in this roughness. On Saturday evening, I became intrigued and mesmerized by this newly found texture. The pits and spots started to represent all the times my good intentions broke apart on the rocks of life. But what still bothered me, were the machine tool marks that crawled over the surface. For me, they represented shadow behavior, a way to cover up undesirable parts of the self. By trying to hide the damage, they became a message of their own. These first two bronzes have taught me more than I expected and now I am looking forward to the next one. My plan is to leave most of the rough texture untouched, apart from some feathering and sharp edges that should be chiseled off, and ask Yakov to only grind down the small dots where the channels were attached. In this way, the spots become like the belly button of the sculpture, where once the life-giving substance flowed through.

What surprised me the most, was how accurately my story about Zoticus predicted what happened this Saturday. I put myself in the sculptures, expecting them to communicate fully how I want to look at life, controlling every step. But in the process I got stuck in expectations and found disappointment, in the same way Zoticus got trapped in his statue. In the discovery of the unexpected, I found myself enriched and free, but it only came after a painful fall.