Sunday, November 13, 2011

Last two weeks

This installation was installed directly west of the exhibited sculptures for the closing, I think it was effective. The big loader and the stone saws are pretty agressive/menacing looking. As you turned away from this toward the site and saw the sculptures there is a realization about the process. Starting with thousands of pounds of raw stone and begining with equipment like this the stone is transformed that into incredible works of art. Thanks for reading and I hope I'll see you at Bergen Rocks 2012, watch this blog for details. After the speaches were finished and the thankyous were said Amgalan rang the bell 7 times to officially close the event, once for each of the participants. It's really a nice idea that we've been doing since Bergen Rocks began and is done at other symposia too. The resonance of the bell creates finality and causes some misty eyes every time, during the short time it rings we think of the great time we had together and the realization hits that within a very short time we will all be in different parts of the world again. I hope I'll see everyone again.
This is one of Zeng's photos, I think he captured how much fun and fulfillment I get from these events. Whether I am a participant, an organizer or just dropping in to have a look I find sculpture symposia put an indelible smile on my face. Thanks to everybody that came out to lend a hand or to experience the event.
The closing was well attended, I think about 150 arts lovers came out. Speaches by the President of RDC, Red Deer mayor and myself followed by presentaions of gifts and certificates. Afterward, wine and cheese and a chance for people to mingle, speak with the artists, take photos etc. The next morning by 8:30 everyone had left for the airport except Ebru who didn't leave until Tuesday. Holy, things went quiet in a hurry!
I think everyone will enjoy "Summer", what a great piece. Everytime I look at it kickstarts jazz music playing in my head, a lot of people that I talked to thought Chu might be from New Orleans and were a little surprised that the he is actually from China. Like the birds in "Holy Horses" people didn't always notice the bird on the tuba player's shoulder, when they did see it you'd hear thier little exclamation of surprise....."Hey, look at that!"
We used fabric to simulate a base for "Holy Horses" It would have been nice to exhibit the sculptures outside of the canopy, in the sunlight, for the closing but not worth the risk for the short time they would be here. Within a week they will all be at thier new home in the Bergen Sculpture Park.
"Journey of the Phoenix" is complete. All that is left to do is spread the gravel at the base and we are ready for the closing ceremony. It is hard to stop your work a lot of times but in symposia your time is finite so there has to be a time when you have to stop, big sigh of relief and now time to play around and enjoy your work and that of the others. It is kind of difficult to leave your piece behind forever after only seeing it completed for a day or so but also really rewarding to know that it will remain for people to enjoy for a couple of thousand years. Mixed emotions on those notes is not uncommon.
Manda, Amgalan, Mayor Flewelling and Hazel at the closing ceremony. The Flewellings were among the most frequent visitors throughout the event, they stopped in at least a couple of times each week to see the sculptures emerging. I think it's pretty neat to witness the development of the works rather than just seeing the finished pieces. Each time you visit there are little changes that give a hint of where the work is going but it is still a surprise to see the finished works and really nice to have had a chance to get to know the artists a little bit too.
Here you can see the beautiful colors in the yellow marble. 2011 is the year of the rabbit and the year that Li's first son was born. Regardless of those things that make the subject relevant people were intrigued with this stylized work, the polished surface demonstrates the skill and amount of work required to realize a sculpture like this from stone. Chao Li's "Rabbit" is polished out and looks like a million dollars. From any angle the light glistens off the surface, smooth as glass.
Three of the sculptors had to leave before the closing ceremonies, on Thursday RDC president Joel Ward presented those that would be gone before Sunday with a beautiful gift made by local artists. Each of them was a little different, depictions of Alberta landscapes on clay tiles. After working for the day it was pretty typical that we would congregate in one of the townhouses to cook up some grub and unwind. Shaping stone requires some resourcefulness so not having enough glasses to go around is a simple problem to deal with.
Manda helped out with cleaning the site, shopping for little things people needed, driving the truck and worked on "Holy Horses" too. We developed friendships that will last our life times, I hope I'll see them all again in the future somewhere.
Chao Li has finished the carving of his form and now has a couple of days polishing to do. The final finish will be highly polished, it will look great on this yellow marble with red, blue and pink features in it.
Ebru's "Journey of the Phoenix" will be a figure standing on a four piece boat. This is the front of the boat, the textured line down the centre carries on from one piece to the next and creates the impression of flowing water to me. As I mentioned earlier a huge amount of work for only four weeks time.
Well, it's not all work. Alessio picked up a hat when they went to Banff and modeled it for us the next evening. Hmmm, I wonder if he has relatives named Mackenzie?
Close to the end of the event, Jiang Chu is still polishing "Summer" at 11pm or so. He is using polishing pads imbedded with diamonds, water lubricates thepolishing pads. Eventually it will look almost this shiney when it is dry. After the work is finished we all spent some relaxing hours enjoying the works. Here everybody is completed and taking photos with each other etc. All that is left to be done is tidying up and placing the gravel or fabric around the bases.
Alessio finished first, all that remains is to inscribe his name on the base. This is at about 11pm, our typical time to shut down. I think most people think it looks kind of fun to do this work but it really is gruelling to complete such a big work in so short a time. 14 &16 hour days are typical, and along with the physical work that goes into one of these pieces there is a huge mental element involved too. Artists refer to that as "being in the zone", sometimes you are so intently focused that someone might walk right up beside you and you don't even sense they are there. That's one of the reasons, besides the dust and flying chips, that the public has to watch the work from a respectful distance.
The detail of the ear creates an interesting contrast to the simple form of the rest of "I am a Liar". The whole head will be textured like the area in front of the ear, that took Bong Soo two days or more. Doing all of that work with hammer and chisel was tedious and demanding but the result is beautiful.
Min and Shin Ae were amazing, I'm sure they removed more than half of the original material to get to the form and every square inch had to be textured too. The final surface is created with thousands of cuts giving the stone the texture of a huge rope.
Manda and Amgalan have a son who lives in New York, turns out Manda has a U.S. driver's license. That worked out to be handy when I needed to go downtown to the "Elements at River's Edge" building site to bring a loader or other equipment, she would go woth me and drive my truck back. She wasn't sure if she would be able to drive a big truck but she did great.
For the closing we surrounded some of the sculptures with fabric to simulate a base and piled pea gravel around the others to cover the dunnage they sat on. The exhibit really looked nice for the ceremony on Sunday. You'd likely never guess that this is a lady that can shape 10,000lb of stone into an incredible art work. She was always happy (we all are when we are creating art) and worked away at a measured pace. I was often surprised to see her moving on to another block when it seemed she had just started one of the others.
Ebru finished carving only a few hours before the bell rang. Steve and I drilled the boat for the pin that would secure the phoenix to it. Ebru had five blocks to carve, it was a huge job for her, at times I wasn't sure if she could complete in time. I really shouldn't have worried about that, all of the participants are professionals and have a timeline set out for milestones to accomplish through the event in order to ensure they won't get caught behind in the final days.
Bong Soo completed his piece a few days before the end of the event and went right to work
on a smaller, similar, sculpture. This piece was also titled "I am a Liar", it was collected within a few hours of him completing it.
Not only did Amgalan capture the movement of the wind in the tails and mains of the horses but there are birds flying up out of the bushes at the horses feet too. They are subtle, it was neat to see how surprized people were when they discovered them. I heard lots of people saying "hey look at this!" when they realized they were there.
Within three weeks Amgalan's sculpture looked like it was finished but he continued to work on details until the final day. The subject is perfect, horses are an important element in Mongolian culture and in ours. I honestly can't pick favorites but I can say that "Holy Horses" is a stand out piece. Fella's that got dragged out by their wives immediatly quit belly aching, promptly dropped thier jaws on the ground and seemed to start drooling when they saw this piece.
Kim Bong Soo's stone was near the edge of the canopy and he would be in the direct sunlight after lunch until the end of the work day. His hat is perfect for protecting him from the sun (and is really stylish)
Sculptors are quite the sight when they get all geared up to work. Eye and breathing protection are a must, the stone dust dries your hair out so it feels like wire and sucks the moisture out of your skin, your hands are always vulnerable to cuts and scrapes. We pretty much have to cover everything up. (This is Ebru)
Another character that has been following Bergen Rocks since it began. Winston (Winnie) is Brad's loveable Burnese Mountain Dog, he wins over everybody it seems. If you see Brad somewhere you can bet Winnie will be somewhere nearby.
A few nights before the closing we went out to The Vat and enjoyed the live entertainment. It was a nice break from our regular routine of working late, cooking supper and getting off to bed.
Amgalan and Manda didn't know these people, originally from Mongolia, who live in Calgary but they came up to visit anyway. They had a nice visit and loved Amgalan's work. I'm sure it was nice to have a chance to speak in Mongolian for all of them. Again, small world.
Chao Li's cousin happens to live in Edmonton and came down for an afternoon, it's nice to run into someone you know when you're half way around the globe. Small world.
When the stones are still blocks we pretty much just roll them around but after some of the work is done it's important to be careful when moving them to prevent damage. Here one line holds the sculpture from rolling over too far while the loader is standing the stone up. The Calgary Stampede was over but there is a rodeo on somewhere near every weekend during the summer in Alberta. On the 21st we stopped working a little early so we could take in the rodeo in Bowden. Not as big and fancy as the show Calgary puts on but non the less the sculptors got a taste of real cowboy action. They had a gas but none wanted to try out a bull themselves.
Chao Li was accompanied by his assistant, Zheng Zeng. He is a first rate photographer so along with Brad's we have plenty of great shots from this year's event. One of Zeng's sisters lives in Vancouver so after the symposium they spent a week there visiting before returning home to China.
We had the pleasure of being hosted to a barbeque at the home of Red Deer Mayor, Morris Flewelling, and his wife, Hazel. They are great supporters of the arts and have been following Bergen Rocks since it began. Last year they came out to Bergen with the President of Red Deer College and his wife........the move to RDC ensued.
The Flewellings are great cooks, after a first class meal we relaxed in their lovely yard late into the night and had a nice visit. We're fortunate to have such enthusiastic supporters.
Ebru is ready to place the phoenix figure onto the boat, Brad and Steve rigged it up and gave me directions while I operated the loader.
I met Brad in 1985 when we worked on a drilling rig together, after he left that industry he became a professionsal photographer but he still remembers how to work like a roughneck. Here he is manning one of the big saws making a cut on Chao Li's sculpture. The depth of the cut is controlled by shortening or lengthening the strap he's holding. My daughter Jessica came over whenever she could make it (I think she is hooked) and helped out with chores around the site. She also baked fresh cinnimon rolls, brought Timmy's etc. She doesn't drive so she would show up on her bicycle with this stuff .
About 2 weeks into the event I got an email out of the blue from Zoe Riemer, an arts student at Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary. She thought it would be fun to come up and give us a hand, I'm not sure if her perception turned out the way she thought it would but she had a big smile on her face most of the time. She likely picked a couple of tons of stone and never seemed to mind, it is wonderful to have people just show up and want to help out (and have a great time doing it).
Another shot of Steve Turner, volunteer exrtrodinare. Many of the photos this year are provided by Brad Calihoo who has been photographing my exploits in art for many years now. He takes great shots, I'm really happy to share his images here. You can tell his shots from mine by the copyright symbol at the bottom and that they are hands down better than the ones I take. I point my camera in the same direction as he does but mine just don't have that little edge that his do. A lot of people think there is no need to hire a pro now that cameras are so easy to use but have a look at Brad's shots, I just can't get pics like this it seems.
Moore Maintenance from Red Deer provided the heavy equipment for moving the stones, owner Jeremy Moore was often on hand to operate the machines too. After the event was over he also hauled the rubble pile away (about 30,000lb). As he came up from time to time Jeremy was able to follow the evolution of the sculptures throughout the event, he's another person that's "got it" now, I'm sure he'll be back next year.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 18

August 18

The old blue saw has been a workhorse again this year. Without this equipment it would not be possible to realize some of the sculptures in only one month. We made some modifications to it this year, it's looking better all the time.

Amagalan is taking a break and stretching his back on the inversion table. He could save time and set it up by his sculpture then work while resting.

Min's sculpture is really taking shape now, it's amazing how quickly he and Shin Ae are working this stone. We have three kinds of marble this year, yellow that Li Chao is using for his rabbit, milky white-Min's stone and crystal white that all the others are using.

Last night we cut the rough space below the rabbit's ears, now it's easier to see where he is going.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Second week

Aug 13

Brad Calihoo made it down this weekend too. He has been at all of the Bergen Rocks events, helping out and always has his camera close at hand. He takes a lot better shots than I do, check out some of them at

Will Truchon, Edmonton Sculptor and architect came down for the second weekend. Last week he assisted Ebru with the gas axe, this weekend he got back on that helping oput Uk.

Alessio made a huge leap forward on his form but he still has a lot of detail. This afternoon's cuts shaved well over 1000 lbs off his stone.

Many people are curious about Ebru's work, made from five pieces I think it is pretty hard to envision where she is going with it.

Bong Soo had us stand his up today, it will likely stay in this orientation until he is finished now. Most everyone can see what it will be now but still really interesting to see what details he will include.

Connie, of the general public, read the signs along the fence warning that marble dust can be a hazard. She didn't have a facemask with her but quickly improvised one.

Boots weren't quite waterproof....sculptors are imaginative or maybe just like a bunch of kids sometimes. Did the job though.