Sculpture: Dragonfly Tribute

As some of you may know, the first two pieces in my sculpture class were video game related. My first was a ChocoMog and the second was an 8-bit tribute to Super Mario Bros. I knew going into this project that it was not going to be video game related, which was kind of a bummer, but at the same time it was a great gift for my parents. Every once in a while I need to remember that I do have a life outside videogames…

So I decided to kill two birds with one stone and knock out a school project and a Christmas gift. I decided to make a dragonfly related sculpture for my parents as a tribute to my little brother Justin, who passed away in late 2004.

Right after he passed away, someone sent us this poem in the mail. Ever since then, dragonflies have been really important to my whole family.

“In the bottom of an old pond lived some grubs who could not understand why none of their groups ever came back after crawling up the stems of the lilies to the top of the water. They promised each other that the next one who was called to make the upward climb would return and tell what happened to him.

Soon one of them felt the urgent impulse to seek the surface; …he rested himself on the top of a lily pad and went through a glorious transformation which made him a dragonfly with beautiful wings. In vain he tried to keep his promise. Flying back and forth over the pond, he peered down at his friends below.

Then he realized that even if they could see him they would not recognize such a radiant creature as one of their number. The fact that we cannot see our friends or communicate with them after the transformation, which we call death, is no proof that they cease to exist.”

Walter Dudley Cavert

I wanted the sculpture to allude to the poem, without limiting my options. I decided to do a birdbath type sculpture where the viewer could light a candle and sit and reflect. This sculpture was a little more complicated than the last two, because I used a bunch of found materials. I wanted it to be organic and incorporating all the different materials while making it unified was hard.

I started by buying a basin to hold the water. I originally tried to make the basin myself, by using a forging center (like blacksmith work, heating up a huge piece of sheet metal in a giant fireplace and pounding it with a hammer) but it did not turn out well enough for my tastes. I ended up using a plastic planter and constructing a metal frame around it.

The stand was simple enough. I bent a large rod to the size I needed to support the basin, and then used three legs to create a sort of tripod. The next step was to create the platform that would be the “pond surface.” For that, I used a cutting torch to cut through a large piece of sheet metal. The result was great because the cutting torch always leaves a ragged edge, which looks like ripples in a pond.

After I welded the platform to the base, I started cutting reeds to go along the backside of the sculpture. The reeds were also made out of sheet metal that I cut into strips, grinded curved tops, added creases, and then bent at organic angles after I welded them to the base. I also made a lily pad flower out of scrap sheet metal. That was the end of my metal work. I then began spray painting. Painting took forever as I ended up using 8-10 cans and twice as many coats.

After finishing all my spray painting, I started to add the other materials I had purchased, including two fake lily pads, some cattail plants, and some other reeds. I also spray painted and used metal dragonflies that used to be on a string of lights. I clipped them on to different parts of the sculpture, five in total. I then went on to hot glue gun little river stones over the entire back of the sculpture, a very long process. I also used the hot glue to make the lily pad flower look wet, which was a neat effect.

The finishing touches included spider-webbing yards upon yards of copper wire along the underside of the basin, to make it look more like roots or plant life. I also put little clear beads at the bottom of the basin to look like the grubs mentioned in the poem. Adding water and lighting candle where the last steps! I am extremely happy with how it turned out, and my parents were pretty blown away as well!

Overall, I am pretty happy with the projects I was able to create in my first sculpting class. They were a ton of work, but I have some awesome original art to keep around my house and my parents cabin. I hope you like it!

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