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Saturday Morning Sculpture – with Jock Ireland
The Saturday sculpture class is an old-fashioned Studio School class. Students are thrown into the deep end, and asked to swim. Nobody drowns. Terrific sculpture gets made. Students work in clay from a live model—a different model each week. Sidney Geist, the first Studio School dean, used to say a week is just long enough to forget completely what you were doing the week before. With that in mind, everyone in the class COMPLETES at least one sculpture each week: projects don’t carry over from one week to the next. The class might include absolute beginners or experienced artists who, for one reason or another, want to take advantage of the opportunity to work in the school’s wonderful clay studio. The teacher is happy to give beginners whatever attention they need. He’s also happy to leave experienced artists alone.
There’s nothing special about the first class except that beginners are quickly introduced to a standard/academic modeling technique. We look at tools, talk about making cigarette-like rolls of clay, using the “cigarettes” to build sculpture. . . . During the second class students get Xeroxes of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska’s one-page history of art from Egypt to Epstein. Students are welcome to read the whole history, but are asked to memorize the first three sentences: “Sculptural energy is the mountain. Sculptural feeling is the appreciation of masses in relation. Sculptural ability is the defining of these masses with planes.” Needless to say, nobody memorizes these sentences. The third class is just like the first two and all the others. We do 20 minutes of short poses—usually four five minute poses—then one pose for the rest of the class. The pose might be full of movement or very still. We might do twisty/“dynamic” poses for two or three weeks, then switch to still poses. We might alternate: one week full of movement, the next stillness. It depends on who the model is, who the students are, what happened the week before, etc. Occasionally we’ll make multi-figure compositions. Occasionally we’ll work from paintings. Occasionally we’ll make reliefs. Occasionally we’ll make heads. We’ll do some standing poses every semester. We won’t use armatures though. Gravity will be the issue: getting the sculpture to stand up. Anatomy won’t be emphasized, though students are of course welcome to bring anatomy books to class, ask questions about anatomy, etc. There are short crits at the end of each class—opportunities for the students to talk, to ask questions, to look carefully at their classmates’ work and to learn from it.