My Semester as a Sculptor of Marble

I had a girlfriend, Crystal, who joined the Army.

Her sister was in the Air Force when Crystal decided to sign up at the recruiting station. She was there on her lunch break with limited time to spare. The Air Force recruiter was at lunch, so, being in a hurry, Crystal signed her papers to join the Army. What possible difference could it make?

Those BlogHers with military connections will understand the humor of Crystal thinking that all of the branches are the same in their level of difficulty.

Much like Crystal, when I signed up for a marble scupture class and was standing on a stack of marble slabs with a jack hammer, breaking them apart, I knew I was in the Army now....

All branches of the military service are not the same.

In a similar way, all sculpture classes are not the same.

My marble sculpture is not at a museum,
but in our rock garden.

 

Everyone who decides to attend college eventually has to take a course that they wouldn't have otherwise selected, to fulfill a requirement or an open time slot in their schedule. Colleges want graduates to be well rounded in their field of study, not just proficient in their favorite courses.

So, that's how I became a sculptor of marble. I was a drawing and painting major working on my studio art degree at the University of Maryland in the early 1970s, and to complete my degree, I was required to take a sculpture class. I had watched a talented sorority sister, also in studio art, sculpt a clay figure with a wire armature inside to support it and that was the class I wanted to take. But, that class was full and so I had to decide whether to wait a semester or go ahead and sign up for the only other sculpture class fitting my schedule, a marble sculpting class. Well, I thought, how hard could it be?

Well, it was really hard. The physicality of marble sculpture is not to be taken lightly. On the first day of class I found myself standing on a HUGE block of marble with a jack hammer trying to hold it steady while I was shaken beyond what I had ever thought possible. Kenneth Campbell, a renown marble sculptor, was the Professor and he insisted we learn the art from start to finish. I did not expect to be hammering off large chucks of marble from the huge block I was standing on, enough for each person in the class, but I had to jump up and take my turn like everyone else.

A sculpting tool kit offered by Sculpture House.

 

Then I had to learn to sharpen the tools, the chisels and points on a sharpening stone with oil as a lubricant.  Next, I had to learn to hold the tools correctly and hit them with the 2 1/2 pound hammer to flick off a tiny chip of stone. Finally, I had to learn that my hands would be "ringing" with the feeling of the hammer hitting the chisel long after the sculpting session had ended. It was a long and laborious process, my marble sculpture class that semester. One that gave me the highest respect for anyone who completes a marble sculpture. Especially getting it shiny smooth by using the progressively smaller sizes of abrasive grits rubbed over and over on every surface. What I learned that year was, completing a marble sculpture takes nothing short of a miracle.

I wouldn't know how that miracle happens because my marble sculpture was never finished to that level of perfection. Even so, my scuplture and I spent so much time together that I now display it proudly: as a petunia support and chipmunk watering hole. I feel both petunias and chipmunks should have nothing but the best.

And, every time I go to the University of Maryland and am walking by the Night - Day sculpture created by Professor Campbell and photographed below, I say, "Hi!" to him and wish him well.

Kenneth Campbell (1913 - 1986)

 

When I was enrolled in Mr. Campbell's marble sculpture class, he was installing his Night - Day sculpture on the University of Maryland, College Park campus. Marble sculpture is physically so demanding. I mean these blocks are HEAVY. It is amazing how he was able to balance them so that they are in place today, just as he left them, forty years ago. (Forty years ago? I was watching him forty years ago?...sigh...)


The Sculpture "Night - Day" resembling Stonehenge is till along the path between Holzapfel and H. J. Patterson Halls at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Night- Day was sculpted by Kenneth Campbell, art professor
emeritus, who taught stone carving for fifteen years;
created in 1972, the pieces represent the various stages
of "enlightenment"

If you are interested in seeing this sculpture listed in D.C. Memorials or view other sculptures in natural settings in the Washington, D.C. area, click here.

 

"High Class in a Minute"

In this video, we can watch marble sculptress Jill Burkee use both hand tools and power tools as she breaks her sculpture free from a block of marble. While watching Ms. Burkee, you will be listening to Luciano Pavarotti, the world famous tenor opera star, singing Franck's Panis Angelicus with some Ave Maria at the end for good measure.

This is quite a dose of high class.

I hope that if it's first thing in the morning, you've had your coffee.

Marbel Sculptress Jill Burkee in her studio.

 

NaBloPoMo March 2012

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