The Art Stork delivers a Pelican
Updated: Nov 18, 2020
I was sitting on the couch a few weeks back, stewing on ideas for a new piece. Pencil in hand, staring at a blank piece of paper, (pregnant pause) I began to sketch various birdlike forms. Shore birds, water birds, and then a crude approximation of a pelican. "Why not a Pelican", I thought!? A pelican is one of our most adept air, land and sea animals! A pelican is a comical bird, but not an undignified bird. It is incredibly well designed to thrive in all sorts of habitats from cold northern climates to Florida's Everglades. It can fly great distances over arid land between bodies of water, and sail so high on thermals that, even though it is one of our larger birds, it all but vanishes to the naked eye. They remind me of our heavy cargo-carrying planes, but cargo planes don't feed themselves, or dive underwater, and certainly don't exude as much attitude as a pelican. If a pelican could talk, I believe it would sound a lot like Bernie Sanders: a bit grumpy, but confident, determined and optimistic. Good sentiments for these times.
So I'm doing a series of bird figures, the pelican being the first to captivate my attention in 3D. The boat-shaped body invites all sorts of play, and the pouch is just asking for some gentle mockery. The wings seem to me as folded sails and rigging. As I work the image from sketch to sculpture, it has taken on a more nautical attitude, then comes back to flying machine. Organic forms start to lose out to mechanism. It has been a fun form for me, and at this point I see pretty much where it is going. It is not really a pelican. I couldn't make a real pelican, and wouldn't try. But it is pelican-like, and I like pelicans.
I've always been interested in how the natural elements impact human structures, and though the pelican is decidedly not a human structure, any pelican that I make is. A man-made pelican should surely suffer a certain amount of hull rot, and barnacles, not to mention a profusion of amateurish repairs. I've used wood, poly-foam, aluminum, steel and wax to make this form, which is really just a pattern at this point. Once it is fully resolved the way I want all the textures and shapes to look, I will begin the process of making a mold so that I can cast it in bronze. All of this will happen at my foundry out in the shop, and will take several months to complete. The piece is about 25" high, and 27" long. Maybe 10" wide. It will first be cut up into what will look like a pile of nondescript parts, then like a pile of discarded bone-setting plaster casts. Then for a brief period what will be the final product will be a crucible full of 2000 degree red-hot molten metal, and at that point I will pour the parts and begin to cobble it all back together in the form you see here! You see, with bronze, you make the initial piece out of whatever you like, then you make it again out of clean wax, then you make it again out of bronze. At each stage, you lose what you had before until the final stage of pouring the metal into the molds where the wax had been. Then you have the components to finally assemble into the durable product in bronze, where it may well then last thousands of years hence!