- Category: Small and Tall
I was asked to fill a pedestal space in front of the Mercury Insurance company in Brea. This is what I envisioned.
As a city, Brea opted to have builders donate 5% of their building fee for purchasing a work of art for the exterior of their buildings. I was approached with the information that there was a building with a pedestal already built. Could I create a sculpture for that pedestal?
The architect would not provide me with the address or the name of the city, just the photograph of the pedestal. I thought it very odd, but went along with his information. When he provided me with the photograph, I had a brilliant idea. How about a Ribbon Gymnast, ultimately titling the finished work Olympic Rhythms.
The Los Angeles Times ran an article in the sports section featuring Selina Woolery, 15, number one Ribbon Gymnast in the United States at the time. I fell in love with the photograph, telephoned the photographer asking permission to purchase his photograph and reproduce the image in 3D.
He not only agreed, but decided to document the process on film.
I met Selina through a chance encounter with her Godmother. Selina arrived at my studio with her father and graciously posed for my upcoming sculpture.
I created a bronze macquette and presented it to the architect and building owners.
They were delighted and the owner of the building boasted that his daughter-in-law named, Kim, was also a ribbon gymnast. We called the large work, 'Rhythm Gymnast.' The small works were titled, 'Selina, Ribbon Gymnast.'
Just as the Statue of Liberty is a copper repousse' sculpture, 'Rhythm Gymnast' uses the same process, but a slightly different technique.
We started by creating the plaster piece, molding it, casting the molds with concrete, then hammered the annealed copper against the concrete pieces to form the large copper shapes. The shapes were put together using an internal armiture, which is like a skeleton. The shapes were connected using a copper welding rod, laid down one drop at a time.
The builder of the copper piece came to me from the LA County Museum by way of his English teacher. Gaspar Gasparian spoke very little English at the time. We communicated with hand gestures and props. He was originally from Armenia, and was a builder of Lenin heads and hands. When Lenin fell out of favor, he fell out of work in his home country. He came to the United States looking to work with sculptors. I was the first American sculptor he worked with.
At our first meeting, I had my friend bring his Armenian father to translate. It certainly was an adventure, but the result was heroic. We both learned from each other despite the language barrier. After all, art is universal!
All together, the sculpture took about nine months to complete and install.
The finished sculpture is 11'h x 5'w and nine feet to the tip of the stainless steel ribbon. The base itself was 5' high.