|Niccolo Paganini, bronze, 66 inches height ©2011 Sutton Betti Sculptures|
A few weeks ago I got the approval to sculpt a life size statue of the popular Italian womens tennis player Alberta Brianti. The sculpture will be in a limited edition of 10 and cast in bronze available sometime in July or August. Alberta is a unique tennis player in that she is one of very few womens tennis players who still uses the single hand backhand swing. Most womens tennis players use the double hand backhand (ie gripping the racquet with both hands) when hitting the ball because it gives them more power. This sculpture is designed to show the once popular tennis technique in a modern way where it is more and more of an uncommon sight at womens tennis tournaments across the world. The technique has advantages and disadvantages over the two handed. The advantages are that it allows for greater reach, it’s easier to hit lower and higher balls, and hitting slice is much easier. The disadvantages are that it does not have the power that a two handed has.
I have been encouraged by a few people to make an instructional booklet and an ecorche (anatomical human body sculpture). Although I have never really taught sculpture I feel that it is something that I would like to do in the future. Many of my family members are teachers and I feel that it is in my blood and it would be selfish for me to go my whole life and not teach. What is it that I would like to help others with? Understanding the human body and art.
When I was a student at the Academy of Art we used to study cadavers at SFSU and my memory of this trip to the cadaver room is fairly vivid. There were about 30 dead bodies all on tables covered in a sheet. Our teacher, the sculptor and anatomist Thomas Marsh, would pull off the sheet to expose the dead body. Although a few people had to leave the room, most of the students were fascinated. To me it wasn’t a dead body. I saw muscles and bones and it all started to make sense having previously only seen pictures and illustrations of cadavers in a book. Seeing the muscles in the flesh (no pun intended) was pretty cool.
Years later I worked for a sculptor named Danielle Anjou. Danielle hired me to sculpt human bodies. That was all that I did, human body after human body. Working closely with her I cranked out about one figure every week and after about 2 years I did close to 60 sculptures for her (yeah, we added em up and I’m guessing I had quite a few slow periods as I should have completed about twice that). During that 2 year period I worked from only one ecorche. This ecorche was our prized possession and was huge in my growth as a sculptor and in understanding the human form. I think back on that time as yet another example of the importance studying anatomy was.
Although I have known for a long time the importance of understanding anatomy, it is only recently that I’ve noticed that I have the understanding to create one of these sculptures and accompanying booklet for others to learn from. It is now that I realize that all of my anatomy homework assignments were very instrumental in my understanding of the human body and understanding of the musculature (of which there is still SO much more to learn and I stress SO much more!).
I do not know when this anatomical sculpture will be ready, but I do plan on having it in the 2012 Loveland Sculpture Invitational. More photos to come in the coming weeks and months…
During the 2011 Loveland Sculpture Invitational show I met a woman who deeply fell in love with one of my sculptures She Loves Me. Although I did have some people say how much they enjoyed my gnome series, none was more passionate about She Loves Me than her. After a few emails and a trip to her inn to discuss details of the sculpture, She Loves Me was purchased by the collector and installed October 2011. The sculpture was the 3rd large scale piece I made that was not a commissioned piece. She Loves Me is a sort of portrait of the artist and was inspired by my girlfriend Jessica. Below is a quick snapshot of the sculpture in the garden of the inn near the entrance. I will take more pictures in the near future.
On October 31, 2011 I installed my sculpture Green Thumb for the city of Broomfield’s Art for Awhile program, a one year art on loan program setup in 2009 to display artwork, in particular sculpture. The five foot high sculpture is positioned on the west side of Broomfield’s Auditorium and Mamie Doud Eisenhower library and in between two other sculptures also selected for the one year program. Green Thumb is my second large scale sculpture that is not a commissioned piece. It is available for sale through the city for the duration of the program with a small percentage of the sale used to fund its permanent collection.
For the last few days I’ve been juggling 5 different projects at my studio and all of them with approaching deadlines. The most recent one is getting two of my 12×12 reliefs ready for shipping to a juried show in Illinois. This will be the first time I’ve exhibited my reliefs to the public so I’m excited to see if anything happens. “Rachel” and “Nude Study I” are plaster originals 12″x12″ that I will have for sale at the Illinois show November 4-December 22.
In the last few weeks I have felt the urge to expand my portfolio to include reliefs. This came about after talking with someone in the cemetery business who was saying that the popular way to memorialize someone is laser etching, not the traditional sculpted relief which has been around since forever. Laser etching is a process that takes an existing photograph and etches in exact detail onto a black granite headstone. In my opinion, it is cheap and unattractive and very representative of technology that cannot replicate what the human hand achieves-beauty. As much sophistication as our technology is, it still fails to prove to me and many others that it is has the ability to match the human touch. Of course, it is incredibly popular and it seems that every headstone that has some design on it has a laser etched image of the deceased. The problem that I see is that every single headstone is starting to look the same. Black granite with a highly rendered image. The other stones are not being used because black granite allows for the necessary contrast between the polished black surface and the etched part which is much lighter. The other stones would produce little or no contrast so they are not being used. So in a sense all of these headstones are looking the same. What I am hoping for in the future is for people to start to recognize that traditionally carved monuments or bronze plaques that are hand sculpted become more appreciated as they provide more options than what our technology can currently produce. Lets say that someone wants a portrait, but not flat, but slightly raised. Perhaps they want it raised another one inch. Perhaps they want a high relief. These are options a highly trained artisan can create, not a machine. It means that someone can have black granite or white marble. It will mean more cemeteries will have unique headstones and statues made of bronze and stone and will be beautiful as they once were before technology made them all ugly and monotonous.
So for the last few weeks I have been spending some time doing reliefs. I have done, to date, 6 of them and I have been very excited at each of them. I’ve casted a few in plaster and polished. Here is the last one I did, it is 12″x12″ and shown in clay. It is actually not round, but square and I used photoshop to make it round so I’m not all against technology.
In a couple of weeks I’ll be placing my 4 1/2 foot tall garden gnome called “Green Thumb” with the city of Broomfield’s art for awhile program. It is a one year art on loan program that was started in 2009. Nine sculptors were selected to display their works for one year and this will be the first art on loan program I have been involved in. I’m very excited about the opportunity and feel fortunate to have been selected. The sculpture will go just outside of the newly completed library near an open field. I will put pics up as soon as it is installed.