Loving the stone's warmth

For the better part of two years I have been staring at a block of marble, scared to death to start work on it because of what it cost. The question keeps recurring, why would anyone in his right mind choose to seek acceptance as a sculptor? Good quality stone costs the earth, foundry casting expenses are higher than struggling sculptors can cope with, crating and shipping charges are crippling, a sculptor normally requires larger studio space and heavier equipment than those in other visual arts disciplines, and, when all is said and done, the market for sculpture in North America is pitifully small.

Analyzing my own entry into the relatively minuscule, modern-day world of sculpture -- as that block of marble sits defiantly in the middle of the floor behind me -- I have to confess I was pushed into it: a friend sensed I had a feel for sculpture, urged me to work with clay and took my first eight pieces to one of Toronto's top private art galleries. To my astonishment (but not to my friend's) the art dealer accepted five of those eight works for exhibition and sale and literally pressured me to prepare for a solo exhibition of bronzes.

That was fourteen years ago. I have been exhibiting sculpture at home and abroad ever since. Most probably you have never heard of me; but quite likely you have never heard of Hans Schleeh and Sorel Etrog, two Canadian- based sculptors who, in my humble opinion, number among the world's best. Furthermore , I'll dare to suggest that few, very few Americans and Canadians, can name even three North American sculptors who have earned respect for their work throughout Europe as have Schleeh and Etrog.

So again the question, why would anyone in his right mind? . . .

I continue to sculpt because I am proud to belong to a sacrificial minority in a hardpressed visual arts fraternity: there are comparatively few of us; the odds are against us; with few exceptions we will never be burdened with fame or infamy. It's either masochism or an easy way out, however one cares to interpret it; but it could just be -- just possibly -- heroic, and I'll take my chances on that.

But you don't sacrifice common sense, not to mention a shot at a fairly reasonable livelihood, simply to reveal a minority membership in a self-depriving fraternity. You have to have a personal philosophy, or ideology, of more importance to you than basic common sense, a comfortable life and an immediate acceptance by others. Mine has been simple enough: opposition to what I have perceived to be the gradual diminishment of the man/woman relationship and an urgency to portray, sculpturally, the elements and facets of that relationship and its outcrop. Nothing particularly intellectual, nothing far-sighted that I am aware of; but that's what I have wanted to say, regardless of what anyone else is saying. And you have to want to express something strongly, uniquely, concretely to be a sculptor, or, for that matter, anything else.

You have to keep your own feet warm in the cold bed of others; boost your own spirits in an essentially materialistic, spiritless society; find faith in your own ability to take -- shall we say -- a dense block of marble and shape it into something preciously informative, touching, yet singularly and perilously, your own.

Why would anyone choose to seek acceptance as a sculptor? No true sculptor does -- seek acceptance, I mean; self-acceptance, maybe; and a clearer understanding of himself, his tools, his materials and his trade. And only now, in the writing of this, have I realized that.

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