Tag Archives: sculpture

El Jardin Studio

The new studio was finished February. It turned out much better than I expected. “A.” seems mostly happy with it. We’ve named it El Jardin, “The Garden”, and it’s an incarnation of a Tango clubhouse. We’re now set up to host Tango events, art and music shows, house guests, and more. For the past months we’ve been running a twice-monthly practica with our neighborhood tango friends. It is a private space by, so we’ve working on a balanced policy about who’s invited to come there.

These pictures show the progress from Fall 2021 to Spring 2022. First the wood floor is installed then it is covered while the painting takes place. After that the floor is “finished” and then we’re dancing! (without countertops)…

Venus designing

To build a larger sculpture from a small clay sketch uses some strategy to make the enlargement work without distorting to design. It’s said the Henry Moore worked his designs out in the size of something which could be held in his hand. That size is very helpful since the object can easily be turned in the hands and all sides studied and worked on evenly, and the contact of the hand, the Great Tool, is equal on all the parts of the object.

My way is to convert a small clay model into a design plan which I can measure and build from. To try and measure accurately from a small model and make enlargements of dimensions is too inaccurate. The model is freehand, and not symmetric, the enlargement scale is too great. I want to derive a schematic drawing which has the essentials of the design laid-out accurately on a grid, which can be enlarged and dimensioned from as needed when building the sculpture. I know my friends in digital computer 3D modeling are appalled, but this is an ancient tried-and-true method of building, anything, from a simple plan or sketch. As well, this design work will help me if I choose to also produce a 3D model, since the proportions of the design are already set down.

I’m working from my last idea, which has taken on the identity of a Venus, or else a proto-woman. I had hesitation about this, but I did get approval from women about it so of course I’m going ahead.

Take clear photos of the model, front, side, back, top, and bottom. Use a deep focal length to flatten out the image and reduce the perspective.





Open then in some software, maybe Photoshop, stack them up in with some transparency, and scale and rotate them so they’re even and of consistent size and orientation.


Then, lay them out in graphic design software, maybe Illustrator, and set some guidelines across their common points of reference.


Draw the design over the images, constructing from the reference points. The image is just a suggestion, you’re creating a new design, not just tracing the image exactly.


With judgment, refine and clean up the drawing.


Turn off the images layer, turn on a grid. And perhaps you have a useful schematic,


..which you can blow up to any size, print out, measure from, and trace onto any material, say, a block of wood, prepared for carving.

On tracks

I haven’t been doing nothing; I liked having a show and getting all that attention so much that I applied for another one. Aside from the work in the last show, I have other things which have never or rarely been shown publicly. This is a collection I call the “colossi” because they’re all over 15 feet – among which are two inflatables, portable and easy to put up, if you have the space.

I thought about a partner to show with. I have a friend, John Harnois, a photographer, with whom I talked often over the years about applying for a show together at the Buckham Gallery in Flint. John also has some very interesting older work which has stayed in my mind. This work he calls the “Acrobat Series”, is nudes photographed with a panoramic camera. Although, what he’s best known for is selling his hand-raised chickens and eggs at the Ann Arbor farmer’s market.

And since it’s the age of internet communications, thank god galleries don’t require you to submit tedious proposals, resumes and statements, but accept webpages about your cooked-up ideas. See: http://colossiartshow.wordpress.com/ for John and my proposal. We probably won’t get it, but we try.

John’s voluptuous, factual, nudes have got me thinking – I’ve have a rough idea for new sculpture in wood to do, and what if I worked it along in the feeling of his oh-so literal nudes? My work’s ordinarily so cute and de-sexualized – what if?

I began with some notebook sketches I’ve had, called “Baby”.


Did some more drawings, this time a woman, a genuine reclining nude. So classic, no?


Progressing to some clay models.



I have a piece of cottonwood I’ve been saving for something to do. It should carve like styrofoam, or should I use real wood? Am I going to build this? I don’t know. Is it too weird?


This is the first time since I brought the show home that I’ve been thinking again about new works to make. Meanwhile I’d been dancing tango a lot, and listening closely to people talk about art, & when they warily mention what they themselves are doing creatively. Once you are out as an artist more and more people will say to you what they are doing or aspire to do. There are lots of poets, dancers and photographers out there, and painters & sculptors; and the children of artists or someone in the family who does or would do something. The great stereotype of the Artist in other times was the bohemian starving in the garret in Paris, or hanging out in 50’s Greenwich Village at the bar. Today, the artists I know are the anonymous persons who’re working nine to five, struggling to find a any moment at all to create something beautiful & meaningful to, at least, themselves. Everyone, whatever you’re trying to do – keep doing it, and see what happens.

I didn’t know what I wanted next; something experimental and abstract – printing, carved low relief, or drawing on canvas ; another heavy involving production in wood or metal; something really large, and lightweight (who has enough papier-mache in their life?)? Then I remembered that the whole time I was finishing the last thing, I was already considering the next. So I’m going to go ahead with all of them and see which one compels me the most. I’ve cleared out the shop, collected most of the materials, and I have firewood for the stove. Hello Winter & introspection & creativity.

Chase and patina

When the cast piece is complete, and the sprues are cut-off, there remain scars where the grinder or saw was used. These areas need to be finished to match the look of the rest of the surface. To chase, is a metalworking term, to ornament metal by engraving or embossing. From this:

To this:


Just mess it up with chisels, punches, files, hammers, stones, whatever, it don’t try too hard to make a match of the texture. It’ll look fine when you heat the spot with a propane torch, which darkens the metal by oxidation I guess.

I leave it all outside for several weeks, and I spray it down regularly with a teaspoon of cupric nitrate mixed with 12 oz water.

..and it slowly turns this nice color. This is patina.


When I’m ready to commit to the patina, I give it a light wax to stabilize and protect it. This darkens and warms up the colors, and brings out the shiny highlights both at once. Real nice.




A and Q supply a nice rock for a base, and Eureka! It is finished & ready to show.


Less is More 6x9 75

October 4 – November 1, 2013

Main Gallery: Joyce Brienza & Matt De Genaro
Opening Reception: Friday, October 4 – 7pm – 9pm

Paint Creek Center for the Arts
407 Pine Street
Rochester, MI 48307

Gallery Hours: Monday – Thursday 9am – 9pm, Friday 9am – 5pm, Saturday 10am – 4pm


The big day, again. The scene at H’s foundry studio

Bronze melting in the furnace, tools waiting on the line, mold preheating in the kiln. No action pictures, sorry, too busy. (video of another pour here)

The ceramic shell molds just filled:


As the metal cools, it shrinks, and begins to fracture the mold apart.


After lunch, we return, anxious to roughly smash up the shell and see what we have.





What I’m looking for is; the casting is complete, no voids or freeze-out of metal in any part, a generally smooth consistency of metal and good surface details faithful to the original. There is the customary small amount of pitting or scaring caused impurities in the bronze, which gives character to the material, and nothing much in terms of flaws from/in the shell molds which would require much repair or patching, there is a nice fire scale  and color to the casting.



I have a tremendous feeling of satisfaction well-earned. I grateful to be working on a team with guys who can produce such things as this. I feel it is a rare thing to be working at this level of excellence in anything, and I’m glad it is happening to me.

Next day, back at my shop, I take apart the second piece more thoroughly.




The shell mostly flakes away easily, and the deeper crevices are cleaned out using a chisel and hammer.





I have two fine castings.


Next, I cut off the sprue system.


Now I can see the completed piece, the complete general idea. It is excellent, what I hoped for.


Inevitably there is still much to do to detail or “chase” the casting; more cleaning, maybe sandblasting in places and patching\repairing some areas, and choosing whether or not to patina the piece and how. I’m leaning towards keeping the natural fire-scale finish, rather raw now, but it improves after a year or so naturally. Otherwise I’d considered that classic black with green haze patina we all know from museum pieces. Think about it. Another weekend and this will be ready for my show in October.

October 4 – November 1, 2013

Main Gallery: Joyce Brienza & Matt De Genaro
Opening Reception: Friday, October 4 – 7pm – 9pm

Paint Creek Center for the Arts
407 Pine Street
Rochester, MI 48307

Gallery Hours: Monday – Thursday 9am – 9pm, Friday 9am – 5pm, Saturday 10am – 4pm



The accretion of shell continues for 15 layers.




The finished shells have their cups cut open to release the wax when it goes into the kiln.



They’re placed in the kiln, and fired up to 1500 degrees for 30 minutes to completely burn-out the wax and and any small wood pins used to support the structure sometimes. Now this is the true test to know that the shells are strong enough.


The wax doesn’t just melt out, it actually burns, which assures the mold is completely empty and dry, when the hot bronze is poured in later.  Any combustible material remaining in the mold during the metal pour could cause a dangerous explosion.


After the kiln has cooled, it is opened and the molds removed.


Everything looks great. No hairline cracks or flaws in the molds’ integrity. I had been worried up to this point, that the molds would be strong and sound.


H. and I are ready to setup for the pour next. The kiln stays nearby; we’ll preheat the shells again later when we pour metal, which is required to prevent a shock from hot metal hitting the relatively colder shell.  We move some fixtures around, and then, while digging a hole in the sand pit to place the molds into, I strain my back, which happens to me from time to time when I am not careful, unfortunately. So we must wait another week before we do the actual pour event.

What’s another week? My show’s still  six weeks off, so, why, uh, worry?

Sprue II & shell

And so, I’ve arrived at the final sprued and vented wax, complete, ready to encase in ceramic slurry and sand, the next step of preparation for the pouring of bronze.


These are the materials which make the shell. Colloidal silica slurry mix, and refractory silica sand. You dip the piece into the slurry, and sieve the sand onto the wet surface. Repeat up to eight or twelve layers. This work is taking place at “H”’s studio foundry, a place well-equipped for this. I’d not be able to do any of this without his generosity in sharing with me his superb facility, and his supportive help and advice. (Thanks)


I’m doing half the piece at a time since it is large enough to not fit in the bucket of slurry at once. It has been very warm here this past week, 90+ degrees, and as strong as I’ve tried to make the sprue system, the piece is moving and settling a bit. I want to get this solid shell going on it as fast as possible. There is a lot of difference in the way the wax behaves between 70 and 95 degrees. The first and later layers – green when wet and orange when dry. I’d rather be doing this in Winter, but I’m committed.


This is maybe three layers. many more to go, until it is solid enough to support the weight of the bronze eventually going into it.


Something else I’m doing also, unfinished from a while back. beach Stone people


Is this taking a long time? (I did go to the beach for 10 days). It was a year ago tomorrow since I completed the model for this sculpture, but for details.

A year.