VISION TO REALITY:THE CREATIVE PROCESS
Creating a 9-foot replica of the original 45-inch Dawson sculpture required the dedication and skills of craftsmen and professionals throughout the country.
Early in 2018, Thom Hawley, West Shore’s executive director of college relations, presented the curator of Dawson’s estate, Myra Bairstow, with a proposal to create a replica of the Daedayl original housed in Florida. Long a champion of the Mason County artist, Bairstow works with galleries and museums to bring Dawson’s art and scholarship to the forefront. She was immediately intrigued by the ambitious and unique project and joined the sculpture team.
The sculpture committee grew with the addition of Beth Lauterbach, an Arizona sculpture consultant who had worked with William Anderson, chair of the Sculpture Trail Task Force, on several projects. Anderson enlisted her to research and advise on the details of the Dawson endeavor, including time estimates, cost, safety concerns, and the sculpture’s ability to withstand inclement weather.
Lauterbach was familiar with the talents of sculptor
TysonSnow and his work on Sculpture Trail pieces
including the "MakingMemories” fountain in Rotary
Park and the Great Lakes schooner bronze in Waterfront Park. She also knew that given the fragility of the original, moving it to Snow’s Utah studio was unwise. At her suggestion, a specialist in 3D imaging traveled to Florida and for two days moved a hand scanner over every inch of the piece and created an exact image using a Styrofoam mold. A milling machine was programed with the digital information and successfully scaled the image up 240%.
BACK IN UTAH
Over the next weeks, work on the replication continued at the Baer Bronze Fine Art Foundry in Springville, Utah. When the Styrofoam mold arrived, Snow was surprised to find the piece contained no straight lines – a situation that would undoubtedly present challenges. Undaunted, he closely examined the piece and discovered an organic form with subtle curves and arcs and willingly took up the challenge.
Snow had examined high-resolution images of the original that revealed pockmarks and divots on its surface, and he developed as he worked a method to mirror that surface on a larger scale. He warmed clay and applied it over the top, bottom, sides, and every angle of the piece. He then crumpled aluminum foil into a ball and pressed it into the clay. After the clay had cooled, he used a kidney bean tool – a thin, metal, kidney- shaped tool used by ceramicists – to rake over the clay, revealing a smooth surface with the minute indentations intact, always sensitive to the tiny details of the original. The complexity of the form required that the piece be cut into 15 pieces, each of which was molded separately. The pieces were dipped one by one in wax to create molds, then put into a furnace where the wax was melted out, creating a negative space where the wax had been and molten bronze was poured. After they’d cooled, the jigsaw puzzle of bronze parts was welded together to create the finished piece.
Of prime concern was maintaining the visual integrity of the piece. Any evidence of welding was ground back, or chased, to hide the suggestion that the piece had been cast in parts.
One step remained. The original sculpture’s composite wood surface must be replicated in bronze, and Snow enlisted Utah artist Nathan Bennett to apply the patina – or final finish – to the piece. Known as the “patinor’s patinor,” Bennett used a chemical oxidation process on the bronze to duplicate the texture and color of the original sculpture.
As work progressed in Utah, campus architects carefully considered the sculpture’s placement in relation to existing structures. They contemplated its appearance in both daylight and after sunset and installed directional lighting to enhance the piece.
In September 2019, Daedayl was trucked from the Utah foundry to Stiles Road, where a crane placed it atop its granite base. Sculpture funding was provided by Dr. Andrew Riemer.
MORE ABOUT DAEDYL
“Daedayl” is an abstract representation of a standing figure consisting of one continuous line that bends and curls throughout the length of the composition. Dawson took the title from the name Daedalus, the character in Greek mythology who was employed as an architect, engineer and artist by Minos, the king of Crete.
“The style is uniquely Dawson,” stated Myra Bairstow, curator of the Dawson estate. “You can look at his work and say, ‘Oh, that’s a Dawson!’ In the art world, that’s a huge compliment.”
Art historians consider Dawson to be America’s first abstract artist. His work is in permanent art collections throughout the country. Dawson studied civil engineering and worked for an architectural firm in his native Chicago, and in 1910, he toured Europe to study art and architecture. There he met influential artists and art collectors, and three years later, was invited to participate in the historic Armory Show in Chicago.
In 1914, he purchased a fruit farm in Riverton Township next to his family’s summer home, where he raised a family and maintained orchards — and continued to create art. His relationship with West Shore dates to the earliest days of the college when he donated a piece to kick off West Shore’s permanent art collection in 1969, shortly before his death.
“Daedayl” will be a part of the Mason County Sculpture Trail, a series of sculptural pieces located throughout the county. William Anderson, chair of the Cultural Economic Development Task Force which oversees the trail, said he welcomes the addition of the Dawson piece, recognizing West Shore as the logical site for the piece.
“The college has an important role in art education and art appreciation,” he stated. “And here was Manierre Dawson, a pioneer in abstract contemporary art living in our community.”
Arizona sculpture consultant Beth Lauterbach, who has assisted with several previous sculpture trail projects, was enlisted to work directly with the foundry which produced the piece.
She soon discovered that reproducing the sculpture was no small task. The greatest challenges, she said, was to maintain the visual integrity of the piece when scaling the 45-inch original to nine feet and fashioning bronze to appear carved from the same composite wood as the original. Selecting appropriate materials to withstand Great Lakes winters was a consideration as well.
Based on Lauterbach’s suggestions, a 3D image of the original sculpture was scaled up 240 percent to create a Styrofoam model. The model was then shipped to Tyson Snow, an artist in Utah who completed the reproduction.
“You have to work with professionals of the utmost caliber,” said Lauterbach. “I’ve worked with Snow on a number of projects, and I know what a perfectionist he is.”
At a Utah foundry, Snow dismantled a nine foot 3D image, and created the molds into which molten bronze was poured. The figure was reassembled, and the details and patina added. The finished sculpture will be shipped to the college later this summer.
An architectural firm the college utilized for previous campus projects has carefully considered the sculpture’s placement in relation to existing structures and its appearance in both daylight and darkness. The bronze piece will be placed atop a five-foot black granite pedestal and be illuminated by low-voltage lighting.
The sculpture will honor a revolutionary artist who lived in Mason County for 55 years and will recognize him as a part of local heritage.
“Dawson is important and was influential to an art style,” stated Thom Hawley, executive director of college relations and sculpture plaza project manager. “The sculpture on the campus will tell the public that he came from us, he’s one of us.”