The Bear 2008

A collaboration with my sculpture students at Mott Community College

For centuries the artist has used the grid to aid in replicating scenes for their paintings. Alberti and Durer looked through a transparent grid to draw more accurately. Post-minimalist artists of the last half of the twentieth century like Sol Lewitt and Eva Hesse made the grid the subject of their work. Today many artists are interested in digital animation. 3-D programs like Alias Maya use the grid to describe complex forms. The same process that was used by sculptors hundreds of years ago to “point up” a plaster sculpture to create an accurate copy in marble is used today by computer programs to enlarge prototypes and to create animated figures.

We used toothpicks with flags made out of masking tape to mark the points on our model before we made the larger bear. Each point is a certain distance from the front or back of the stand and a certain distance from the side of the stand and a certain height. These three points tell us where that point is in space. When we multiply each one of those numbers by a factor (for instance, we may want the final piece to be 4 times as large as the model and then we would multiply by 4), we can find that point in space for the large bear. This pointing system helped us to make the large bear.

The texture evolved out of a need to figure out the proportions of the body parts to each other, to create forms that were consistent and symmetrical and to develop an idea of direction of the flowing hair. In much the same way an animator invents a form using 3-D programs like Alias, we created a bear in a pose without the benefit of having a real bear to look at.

 We discovered that the grid looked contemporary because it references the digital age and the strong connection the arts can have with technology. The grid texture is also original and in that sense it is creative and it challenges our preconceived notions of what a bear sculpture should look like. 

The grid mirrors what we try to do in an educational setting. It creates an order and therefore a way of understanding. It asks to be looked at in a new way and asks the viewer to be open to what is new and inventive. It is receptive to its environment as the multiple squares seem to move as the viewer moves around the sculpture. The reflected light from the sun will enhance and animate the surface further.