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Modelling a Griffin after 90 West Street
Back in the second half of the 19th century, times were slower, mail took
weeks if not months to reach a recipient, electric lights were a revolutionary world changing new technology much as computers today are.
A trip to a city that is but an hour drive away today, took perhaps two days via the standard transportation of the day- horse and buggy.
There was little mass production as we know it today, certainly not on the scale of today's modern computerized production. Women wore long dresses, the men wore suits, hats, and carried a pocket watch. They carved wood and stone, as well as sculpted clay and cast metals by laborious methods, which the cost of would be prohibitive today.
The style of the day in everything from clothes to architecture was frills, lace, decorative, elaborate, perhaps even excessive by today's standards. Even mundane utility articles as well as buildings were made, built, or constructed to last from one generation to the next, and beyond. Most of this tradition is now lost to time, changing "styles" increased costs, and demands for things to be had quickly to name but a few reasons. As a result, we have become a throw-away society where few things are made to last, and buildings are demolished (if they don't fall apart first) before they have seen thirty years of use. In my teen years of rescuing carvings, metalwork and sculptures from buildings being demolished, even I at the age of thirteen could tell that great care went into the design, making and construction. I could examine a terra cotta sculpture and see the long deceased sculptor's finger prints and marks still pressed into the clay and not only feel a connection, but start wondering about the life of the artist who created the anonymous work.
Who was he? where did he live? what was his life like in 1890? what were his thoughts during the hours it took to create the work? and so forth. It is easier and we relate more to someone in a photograph who lived in 1890 than someone we read about who lived in the 12th century and almost seems to be little more than a myth or story to us. Before long, I wanted to try creating the same sculptures, replicating the processes and designs, in some small way subconsciously I'm sure- to try to bring back the style. This is certainly not possible on today's steel and glass boxes, but perhaps in a small measure in people's homes and gardens as a sort of shrine if you will, to the lost Victorian and the subsequent "Art Deco" periods.
While it is unlikely we will ever return to the styles of the Victorian or Art Deco eras, I hope with my sculptures that people will be able to touch, view and walk around them and feel the same awe and connection to the artists of another century whose lives were so totally different from ours today.
A finished clay master model.
For my clients I want my work to be unique, surprising, stunning, interesting, and full of a connection to history they can relate to and the anonymous sculptors who created the original works- usually in a very hostile work environment of long arduous hours, toiling in dusty dirty air earning very little money.
NY Times site opens in new window
It was to go to a storage space I had in a little carpenter's shop at 8 W 4th St- that was 6-1/2 MILES South of the building. Back then, pushing a cart full of salvage 6-1/2 miles was just something I did without thinking a whole lot about it. Thinking back now I remember that piano was a little over 700 pounds, lucky for me I was offered a ride in a truck by someone there (with extra strong fellows tagging along too) salvaging stuff!
I was happy I didn't have to push that the 6-1/2 miles!
BELOW: Here was the start of the whole thing
There I am, the only photo ever taken of me "at work" salvaging- on November 24th, 1974. I am shown on the scaffold at the Salvation Army Women's Lodge, 242 Spring St with a hammer and screw driver pounding away trying to remove a keystone from over the window which is just barely visible by my head. I was just 14 and a friend of mine named Mario Rossi came with me, he shot the photo with my cheap camera and obviously moved a bit so it is blurred.
I spent all day maybe two days and finally got the piece out- the mortar in this building was take a jackhammer to remove concrete, it was tough!
NEW Slide show, 24 slides of a quick tenement education and examples ending with some of my work. GALLERY Mouse over the center of the screen for the control arrow to start.
Updated 9/20/10 All photos (except customer photos as noted) are copyright by Randall's urbansculptures.com and are not to be used for any purpose without prior permission, which will usually be as simple as an email request.