Across from the Frick Collection on 5th Avenue on the edge of Central Park between 70th and 71st streets there’s a small monument dedicated to Richard Morris Hunt, the one who designed the base for Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty. Hunt’s bronze bust is in the center while on the right and left are allegorical females depicting Architecture and Painting and Sculpture. Sculptor Daniel Chester French has the left figure holding a mallet and a palette. Under her thumb and resting there on the palette is a small male figure, like a puppet — a little footless and handless guy whose presence seems a mystery. The female figure is cool, optimistic, imperturbable. The little guy just squirms.
Who is the little guy? He’s the muse that we all must carry. He’s the little guy who reminds us that we have work to do. He’s the little guy who, because he has no hands, needs us to do it for him. He’s a tiny, eternal “Dionysus,” a replica of a figure on the east pediment of the Parthenon in Greece. A patron of the arts, Dionysus still wanders our world, encouraging our activity.
In Union Square, equestrian George Washington — New York’s oldest existing bronze — is currently wrapped in plastic and being polished up. Dedicated in 1865, Henry Kirke Bush-Brown’s masterpiece has long been a gathering point when freedom and democracy are threatened. Today, faux lovers snuggle between the flailing hooves while student photographers use the plastic as a scrim.
Down in Battery Park people drop off flowers and have their pictures taken at The Sphere. Fritz Koenig’s giant bronze idea of a world fits together like a Rubic’s cube. The sculpture is rent with holes and abrasions, its base twisted like plates from the Titanic. For three decades it stood in the plaza of the World Trade Center. The Sphere was brought to this place in 2002 as a temporary memorial to those who lost their lives in the attack. During those tragic events masonry and shards of glass rained down, pierced and smothered it. Moved and within sight of the ascent of the new Freedom Tower, it’s now an icon of renewed hope and resolve for world peace. How valuable is bronze.
PS: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” (from a poem by Emma Lazarus — inscribed in bronze on the base of the Statue of Liberty)
Esoterica: One of the great American virtuosos was Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1848, he was the son of a shoemaker. His family moved to New York when he was one. At thirteen he was apprenticed as a cameo cutter. He took classes at Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design. After a stint in Europe he returned to the USA where he worked with the architects of the day. His free and flowing touch aptly describes his American heroes. Today, seemingly undeterred by the current population of doves, General Sherman led by Victory still moves forward at the entrance to Central Park.
New York City Bronze
Thought it was lost
by Carla Sanders, Hope, ME, USA
I am so thrilled to know that The Sphere still lives as a memorial. I thought it was lost. As an artist living in an office (not loft) two blocks from the World Trade Center, I took my two babies to the plaza to play. In 1979 and 1981, Brendan and Andrew each learned to walk there. They spent many hours playing in the black granite fountain that was the pedestal for The Sphere. The boys much preferred the World Trade Center Plaza to playing in Battery Park.
Reading of the little guy
by Nicholas Pearce
I must tell you of my reading of the little guy. To me the little guy is us, the artist, having to move to the will of our muse, the great and overpowering female that is our artistic desire. Yes she is cool, optimistic and imperturbable as every artistic impulse is, just as we, on several occasions, are not. He has no hands because it is not he or we who are the doers but merely the followers of what must be done, the puppets of our overwhelming creative spirit. I almost always feel very small beside my need to create.
Statue of Liberty
by Julie Rodriguez Jones, Sparks, NV, USA
In 2000, I splurged and flew to New York for the opening of a small group show where some of my work was being exhibited. The show was nice but the most memorable event was visiting the Statue of Liberty. I had never before seen it in person. I walked from the subway and as I rounded the corner, she emerged. It was as if I was seeing her for the first time. I took the ferry over to Liberty Island. I went to the highest point on the base, just before you go up the stairs, and there I stayed the entire day and even returned for most of the next day, sitting mesmerized by this magnificent piece of art and monument. I took pencil and paper and sat there sketching, looking straight up. I just could not tear myself away. She is one of the most amazing works of art I’ve ever seen.
Alexandre Eiffel’s super structure
by Coulter Watt, Quakertown, PA, USA
Glad you’re enjoying the electric buzz of my old hometown, New York City. You mentioned The Statue of Liberty and Bartholdi’s design of the base structure. Perhaps what many people don’t know is that the super structure of The Statue of Liberty was designed by Alexandre Eiffel, the man who designed The Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower was built for the International Exhibition of Paris of 1889 commemorating the centenary of the French Revolution. It was almost torn down in 1909, but was saved because of its antenna. In 1910 it became part of the International Time Service, then French radio, and in 1957 French television.
Eiffel was a master of elegantly constructed wrought-iron lattices, which formed the basis of his bridge constructions and led to his project for the Eiffel Tower. He was mainly recognized as a great engineer and bridge builder. It was Eiffel’s design and construction system (manageable small iron pieces bolted together to form ridged structures) that lead to his building many bridges in the remote mountain regions of South America and the invention of what many of us older people played with as children, the Erector Set toy.
Stunningly, after 9/11 and France’s refusal to join Bush’s madness in Iraq, a Pennsylvania state Legislature tried to pass a bill banning French wine sales in the State Liquor Stores — still a controlled substance here. Pennsylvania is the single largest consumer of French wines. I wrote the Legislature and asked if they wouldn’t like to send The Statue of Liberty back, too. Naturally, I take full credit for the bill’s defeat!
Large wildlife bronzes
by Brad Greek, Mary Esther, FL, USA
I have always admired great statues, bronze being one of my favorites due to the details that they can achieve. Of course I’m more inspired by those of wildlife and size. I just wanted to mention that some of the largest wildlife bronzes can be found in front of the Cabela’s Sporting Goods retail stores. Sculptors… keep up the great work!
Inspired in NYC
by Mary Jean Mailloux, Oakville, ON, Canada
My favorite bronze is a Henry Moore at the Art Gallery of Ontario. It is the warmest touchiest bronze in the world. Of course I also love Rodin’s and Edgar Degas’ figures and I marvel at the statuary on University Ave. and Queen’s Park every now and then. First there was Paris, then there was New York and that’s how I experienced art appreciation. In 2 1/2 days I saw the entire Picasso retrospective (1000 pieces) at the MoMA, the Whitney museum (Edward Hopper retrospective), the Frick collection, the Gugghenheim, and part of the Met. Also attended three plays, and walked through Soho. I love New York. Working as a designer at the time, and studying art, I found it absolutely inspiring. Don’t think I could live there though — too frenetic for me.
America the prize
by Moncy Barbour, Lynchburg, VA, USA
This letter inspired me to feel that America was the prize for the pilgrims searching for a new world of hope and dreams. The land of the brave and the free even from the onset of their journey to this new land. As Matisse said, “One day America will have painters, because of its breathtaking beauty.” He was in New York when inspired to say those words. I love America!
Painting the memory
by Lillian Tkach-Matisons, Calgary, AB, Canada
I started painting feelings, emotions and the type of paintings I would buy if I had the money, instead of “things” once I stopped using photographs, and pictures I collected over the years. Now I collect experiences, like the beautiful sunsets or fog, when I am in a car and I don’t have a camera, so I have to stop to absorb the wonder and the scene, and then go home and paint that “wow” feeling. Without a photograph, I can only paint the memory, and I keep layering thin glazes, until I’m satisfied. I can accomplish this in 4 glazes, or it may take 12-14. I don’t care. I start with a blank canvas, decide on the basic colors I want to use, and go from there. No sketches, no planned structure, just what I have learned over time. I paint thinly, so that I can always add, and don’t worry about whether it turns out or not. I have gessoed masonite boards cut in various sizes and have probably 50 at my disposal at any time. Or I work on canvas. If a painting doesn’t work, I put it aside for a while where I can look at it, and start another 3-4. I don’t expect every painting to work out. I keep my duds in a box. Sometimes, you just have to give up on a painting, and start a fresh one.
by Bobbie Kilpatrick, Columbus, TX, USA
This is in response to Erla Daly and Laury Ravenstein: Erla, you may be trying too hard. Time painting is never wasted even if does not come out the way you want. You learn something every time. And Laury, you are wrong… all your work looks like the same artist painted it. It is just different subject matter. Line up all your paintings and find the one or parts of them that you feel the best about. Then answer why that appeals to you. What do you want to say with your art? What inspires you to paint in the first place? When our skills become natural to the point we do not have to struggle, we can freely let go and paint from within. When you feel every painting has to count, you put a lot of pressure on yourself. We are naturally influenced by instructors and others we are around while learning. But we learn the methods that are useful to us and discard the rest and emerge with our own style and personal creative works. You can be professional even if you paint in a primitive style because it is what you do and art is your career.
When I was learning to paint I tried to reproduce what I saw and make it as real as possible. Every so often I would have an idea and paint something that my husband called “weird”. It was from my mind, symbolic, and abstracted. Then I would set it aside and get back to the “real” painting. After 10 years I was in galleries and selling well but was getting bored with the traditional work. When you have done 400 landscapes and 400 still lifes, etc. you want a change. So I stepped back and realized my true art was the weird stuff so I started producing more of it. I talked one of my galleries into a showing of this work and it was a disaster. The collectors of my traditional work did not like me going in a new direction. So I decided to sign the new work with my maiden name of Dickinson and it solved the problem. I still do both types of work because I am still inspired when I see the misty morning light come through the trees or reflections in water, silver, and glass. When I am painting reality I get the ideas for the abstract work. So we can make anything work. Good luck.
by Bruce Zeines, Brooklyn, NY, USA
When people ask me what I do, I tell them I am an artist. “Oh. You paint?” is the usual response. “No” I say, “I draw.” This is usually followed by a look of complete perplexity as if the response has caused some kind of discombobulation inside their mind. It would be nice to return to painting which I have not done for some 20 years, but now I am content to draw. I draw all the time. It is both a search and a necessity for me. I draw with pen & ink. Simple. No?
I live in Brooklyn NY. My apartment is small; money has been a strain in these Bush years, so the reality of affording a studio where I could paint is unrealistic. My wife, who is now my rep and very supportive, suggested a while back that in lieu of painting, why not set up my drawing desk in the living room so I can do my work. I have been working daily for over a year and we are now in the midst of putting up our own show of these drawings. It is very exciting.
Drawing for me is essential. And I believe it should be essential for every artist, or at least painters and sculptors. It is something I have done since I was a child. I learned a great deal under Burt Hasen at my days in the School of Visual arts, but it is only now as I enter my 50th year that I am willing to let my drawings stand on their own. After a life of graphic design and art direction, this is the most satisfying and difficult work I have ever done. And I am just getting started.
I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on this subject. Does every artist working in 2 dimensions need to paint? Where do we see the “Art of Drawing” fitting in to modern art? I would love to have an exchange on this.
bronze w/ fabricated glass & Gold Leaf
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