It`s HUGE!!!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Saga of the Marble Skull

Creation for me has always been a solitary exercise. Writing. Sharpen your pencil, pick up the notepad, decide on your subject, and put the lead to paper.. Oil painting. Stretch the canvas, roll out the sable brushes, pour the turpentine, lay the colors on a palette and begin the sketch. Photography. Find the subject, frame the picture, note the light and snap.

Casting bronze was my first artistic collaboration. Working the black wax with my fingers and delicate dental tools to create the forms, then taking the figures to the foundry where a mold is made, placing the mold with the wax figures inside a roasting furnace, and filling the melted void of wax with molten bronze. The mold is then removed from the furnace, broken open and the now bronze figures removed. The figures are assembled together, with my instruction and a patina is applied.

I began thinking about marble.  I sent my Burmese friend up north to Mandalay and then on
 to Sagaing where pure white marble is quarried. He returned to Rangoon with a block about one foot square, no cracks or imperfections with the fresh maw marks still evident on the sides. The quality of the marble was as fine as any Michelangelo or Bernini has ever brought from Carrera Italy.

I knew of a master carver in the outskirts of Rangoon and brought the block of marble to him. I had photographs of human skulls and even a real one which my friend a medical student procured from his medical studies. I visited many times to inspect the progress and finally after eight months when the skull was complete, even being hollowed out with thin walls of marble, it looked real. So real in fact that customs in Burma made me remove it from the case where I had it packed to show them that it was stone and not bone.

A crown of interlocking nude women in decreasing sizes was made in wax, and then I had a jeweler who had worked at Cartier Paris cast all twelve of them in sterling silver. The combined weight was 1,750 grams or one and three quarters of a kilo of pure silver. The smallest figure would have her legs curving into one of the eye sockets and the largest reclining woman laying back with her arms out stretched would be holding on to something. All of the twelve figures would encircle the marble cranium.

The other eye socket should contain a replica eyeball. I found a Brazilian gem dealer in Hong Kong who had a spherical star rose quarts of 97 carats. I bought it. The crystal was perfectly clear rosy pink with a strong golden star. To create the effect of an eyeball I needed a cornea and an iris with a pupil. I had a polished eyeball quartz agate which I had purchaced years ago in Brazil. Every eyeball in the agate had an extending crack except one. I had that one cut out, drilled the rose quartz, and anchored the eyeball agate into the rose sphere. It was set so perfectly a fingernail could not detect a ridge.

Then I molded a wax eye socket with upper and lower eye lids, cast it in silver and then plated it in over 15 grams of thick pure gold. The edges of the eyelids were lined with white tapered baggette diamonds, and another row of black diamonds to emphasize the shape of the eye. In the corner of the eyeball I set a pear shaped ruby.

The largest of the twelve reclining naked women with her arms out streched would hold a double phantom  quartz crystal from Sri Lanka. The dark black double phantom within the crystal imitated the outer hexagonal pyramid shape. I polished the quartz crystal as clear as glass. Then the crystal was sunk into a silver bed of fifteen Japanese sea pearls.This silver bed of pearls was then gilded. I made a stalking panther in sterling silver encrusted in African orange sapphires and bright green Tsavorite garnet eyes. I had the jeweled panther roaming across the bed of pearls at the base of the phantom crystal.

My biggest collaborative effort to date, more than two years in the making, from the quarrymen to the carver, the molder, the metal casters, jewelers, stone setters, gemologists, conceptualists, dreamers, and madmen, here you have one of the most remarkable works of art ever assembled. Welcome.