Patina and Site Preparation for Lament

After a year's work, the bronze Lament will finally be finished today and transported to Washington, D.C. where it will be installed in a coveted location at the Kreeger Museum.  

From mold creation, to wax models, to pouring the metal, to chasing the pieces together, Lament has finally arrived at the patina process, a stage I have found most challenging. 

Patina, is the process by which chemical compounds are applied to the surface of a sculpture in order to get a desired uniform color. 

I received several samples from Polich Tallix Foundry ranging from greens, blues, browns, and oranges that could be applied to my work. What was overwhelming to me at first was the amount of possibilities that could be done. I had to select an overall color for the work, any undertones for that primary color, and which colors to use for detail areas such as high and low points on the surface of the sculpture.  Only with hands-on experimentation at the foundry was I able to see the effects each color made when applied. 

As a result of my recent visit, I ultimately decided to have the patinist emphasize a dominant green color,  with subtle additions of other hues like oranges and browns for slight variations of the green. The final statement is a uniform appearance of a complex composition. You can see my patina selection to the right. 

Here, the cast is shown without application of patina. 

Here, the cast is shown without application of patina. 

The final patina coloration I selected for Lament

Patina coloration, detail.

I am eager to see all three trees delivered to the museum tomorrow morning. It will be quite a site.

This week, the site was being prepared for Lament's installation. A huge hole, 3 feet deep and roughly 9 by 12 feet, was dug out of the center circle at the museum.  After excavation, a concrete mixer poured cement into the hole. Even though it was raining, our efforts could not be stopped.  


Ben Gage, fine arts specialist, and Ivan Delgado, Kreeger Museum Operations Director did a fine job prepping the site for installation. 

Ben Gage, fine arts specialist, and Ivan Delgado, Kreeger Museum Operations Director did a fine job prepping the site for installation. 

Here the area is shown just before the pouring of the cement foundation. 

Searching for sculpture in an environment without trees

Desert Curtain, shown at the "Construction in Process V: Co-Existence," symposium, Negev, Israel, 1995. Burlap and glue, 7' x 9'6".

In 1995, I was invited to participate in a working symposium in the arid Negev Desert region of Israel. Upon my arrival to Mitzpe Ramon, I was swept away by the natural beauty of the location: the layers of mist in the desert sky above the horizon, the broken horizontals of the sand layers below the bluffs.  It was these layers that inspired me to make my Desert Curtain, a memory print of what I had found there. It was the same process that I used in my Mold as a Piece of Art series in 1982, where I used rubber molds to make imprints of tree trunks.

The Israel project was a challenge as there was no rubber mold material available at the desert site. With a bit of experimentation I settled on using glue and burlap, which made a very transparent and brittle curtain, but which nonetheless held the verticals and horizontals I needed of my chosen sandy cliff. 

Upon finishing Desert Curtain, a local resident admired it, and I decided to give it to her. She said she would hang the work in the classroom where she taught so that the children would realize what an extraordinary environment they lived in.

My Desert Curtain experience made me understand that any created form of the past makes  vocabulary for possible subsequent work. Forms such as Mold as a Piece of Art from 1982 can serve as a storehouse for future art projects. Relating the artist’s past works, approaches, and techniques for current works strengthens the overall artistic statement.

My sculpture Desert Curtain reveals the rich colors and striations that are hidden in this aerial photograph of the Negev Desert. I discovered the geological overhang, where the colors were present, and couldn't help but to make a print of them.

An example from my 1982 series, The Mold as a Piece of Art.

A Conversation with Mika Brzezinski about Lament

Lament is one of my most recent and exciting installations where I used the chainsaw to bring out the emotive elements in my artistic statement. Currently, the 3-piece installation is on exhibit at the Kreeger Museum in Washington, D.C. and will be through the end of 2014.

My daughter Mika discussed with me Lament's origin and future purpose of the work. Below is our conversation:
MB: What is the title of this work?

EB: This piece is called Lament.

Pausing for a photo after just finishing my  Lament.

Pausing for a photo after just finishing my Lament.

MB: What are the origins of the three trunks in Lament's  composition?

EB: When searching for wood in rural Virginia, I discovered a fascinating trunk which unlike most red oaks, was not growing vertically, but rather making a huge arc along the ground growing skyward. This trunk was so extraordinary, I eagerly pursued procuring it for a future work even though I didn't know what I was going to do with this particular bent piece.

By the time I got the bent trunk to my studio, I realized the trunk had within it the theme of grief.

It took several years for me to realize that this extraordinary arched trunk should be part of a composition of three. The largest of the three trunks in Lament I found at the top of a pile of "junk wood" ready to be burned by a mill in Virginia. I gladly saved this large trunk before its fate.

MB: These trunks are larger than those you have used previously. Is it difficult to work with trunks in such a monumental scale?

EB: I always work on the ground where the material is easily accessible to the use of my tools. For me, there is very little difference between large trunks and extra large trunks. I have what is needed in my studio to handle material that weighs up to 5 tons and have yet to encounter any problems when working with trunks of this scale.

MB: What do you plan to do with Lament once The Lure of the Forest exhibit at the Kreeger Museum concludes?

EB: Upon the exhibit's conclusion at the Kreeger, I would like to plan a traveling show that would allow Lament to have a national presence.

My long-term desire would be to find a means of casting this monumental expression of sorrow into bronze. A bronze casting would give the piece permanence, something it lacks in its present medium. Upon casting the work, I envision the bronze Lament placed in a setting that commemorates a tragic event.