The Foundry Show opened this past Friday, (April 25) and featured bronze and iron sculptures created by nine SCAD students in Professor Matt Toole’s Foundry Class. The exhibition was hosted at Sicky Nar Nar, a gallery space/yoga studio/coffee bar nestled in the primarily residential area just west of Forysth Park. Inside the space, upbeat music fed the lively mood and the artists mingled among the sculpture with professors, art admirers, and their peers.
The bronze and iron pieces, all roughly around the same small-ish scale, were displayed on simple, glossy, black pedestals and matching pedestal display tables, with a small sampling of the work hung on the walls. While the conceptual backing for each artist was diverse, there was a playfulness that seemed to carry through the works.
Most of the artists integrated other materials into their pieces; wood, copper, lead, paint, sand, and even plant matter appeared. This exploration of materiality, coupled with the aesthetics of a new generation of artists, brought lightness to the traditionally heavy, both visually and physically, bronze medium.
The exhibition curator as well as featured artist, Sami Lee Woolhiser, excitedly described the process of creating the works. She recounted how the students used a lost wax process: they created wax versions of their works that were used to make molds which molten bronze would later be poured in.
“It’s a team sport,” Woolhiser said. “First, we all suited up in these big, silver, heat protectant suits.” Then the students melted down 600 pounds of bronze. The pour team, under the lead of the “live end” who controls the pour (a role Woolhiser reluctantly accepted) dispensed the near 2300°F bronze by tipping a crucible containing the liquefied metal into the molds.
“It was the most surreal, purely aesthetic experience. It was impossible not to notice all the things that were happening. It’s dangerous! There’s molten metal. You have to be careful but enjoy it at the same time,” Woolhiser said.
After the bronze in the molds cooled, the students beat their molds off the metal. Then they began the process of finishing the pieces by welding and removing the hallmarks of the casting in a process called chasing. Finally, the students colored their pieces by applying a patina using heat and a chemical treatment to alter the surface color.
Understanding the intensive process behind these pieces only added to the beauty of the exhibition and further highlighted the juxtaposition between the fresh, youthful style of the pieces and the time-honored bronze casting process. Woolhiser exhibited several charming pieces depicting crooked, little homes seemingly left to invasive and meaty succulents in some slightly twisted fairy tale. Ty Derousseau presented an almost sequential exploration of an endearing little monster who found himself in darkly comic circumstances, reminiscent of a Pixar short. Kristen Crouch paid homage to creative and personal ideation, dreams, and growth, by encasing ‘dead’ journals in elegant wooden coffins, topped with beautiful bronze sculptures.
The Foundry Show was a lovely showing of work, united by the innately compelling bronze process. “It’s fitting for us all to show together. We went through the process together. We’re a family,” said Woolhiser. It was easy to get swept up in the mood of the room. The comfortable, yet excited chatter reflected the feeling of accomplishment the group of young artists felt, as well as the kinship that was forged through exploring, learning, and creating together.