Mount Arikaree and Arikaree Glacier are the subject of this painting. I’ve summited this 13 thousand foot peak more than 20 times. After the last ice age 10,000 years ago, the glacier retreated into its cirque. Glacial meltwater passes through the talus field to emerge on the low shoulder of the mountain with only 1 part per billion of sediment- some of the cleanest water imaginable. Colorado State University’s Alpine Research Center is based in this glacial watershed, and last year they predicted Arikaree Glacier would be gone by 2025, with the sister valley’s Arapaho Glacier meeting its end soon after. I was the protector of these glaciers and their watersheds from my 18th birthday though to my 30th; I kept individuals from leaving physical footprints and infecting the watershed with giardia, but all the billions of humanity’s footprints are stomping it into oblivion now. While painting I’m streaming interviews with arctic / antarctic scientists, biologists documenting the 6th Mass Extinction, investigative climate journalists, climate activists such as Extinction Rebellion, Dark Mountain poets and authors; keeping my head in the game of reality while memorializing the heart of the mountain, already so much smaller, and ever smaller, and gone. Climate Collapse is finally obvious in everyone’s back yard, and if your back yard is alpine wilderness, it is already over. There is a white-hot place in my mind now that wasn’t there in my patrol days, a spot the glaciers kept cool, and now with them dying- it is a strange inescapable light, an ultraviolet long wavelength, a wave form of oblivion.
Last night’s snow squall convinced me to wait ’til things warmed up in the afternoon before rolling the shop door open for welding. 34 degrees and breezy was warm enough for the Ibis.
I laid it all flat on the table, and aligned the head/neck and tacked the neck in place then stood it up to double check. Then it was on to welding with the Argon tank showing empty, but hissing along for all the day’s welds. With the weld line finished, it was on to metal chase. Still some finessing left on that front, but well enough for today.
Yesterday (Friday) I drove to the foundry for the final / finally / finale of fins. I pile them all to the front in case highway traffic screeches to a halt in the classic “crack the whip” of a random slight speed drop leading to near/complete stoppage for those behind. Since speed limits were raised to 70 this happens exponentially more often.
This is the first of the three trout that had parts blow out during metal pour, and needed new midsections / heads / tails fitted in wax and recast in bronze. The foundry’s production manager wasn’t satisfied with the fit of the cast sections, so he fit and welded the big sections of the body/head himself. The only structural welding for me is the window into the head, filling all the pinholes, and putting the tail on.
Second from the L is today’s trout; one of the best so far. The far L trout is different than last we saw. This was the skinny fish of a few posts back, and he is all figured out now. He had his side cut off via plasma-cutter, the other side stretched with hammers, the cut off side stretched with hammers, and then all welded back up. This is an aspect of why the remaining 3 fish came back with the volume issue fixed by the production mngr.
Sunday’s fishing will see a tail swish opposite to these. None of these four are finished, but they have all major processes handled.
The difference between the six finished wax trout I dropped off, and what I was handed back is like working forensics from a recognizable corpse; true Frankenfish that I have to reanimate to their original quality. The problem isn’t piecing in random remains to cover the parts lost in casting, but they too may be traced back to The Crime Scene: the foundry wax room. They did 10 trout for me on the last big commission and they were all fine, this time we are 1 of 3 so far, or in actuality, 1 of 6.
Today was a fun-weld day, following many hohum-weld days coupled with doldrum days of chasing fins and grasses. Once all the bits and parts of major sections are perfect, then the parts are welded together, and though the welds are long, they just need smoothed out.
The only tackle needed is a hammer. He was biting on the medium ball pein today.
Welding the windows and chasing out the grasses to match is a bit of a chore. The two nearest hoops are new, the one behind is a left over from years ago (still needs some chasing). The new halves were joined along the midline in the rocks, which still need chased. I’ve been limiting my time-on-tool and wearing my new vibration deadening gloves, and things are going swimmingly.
The trout suffered a version of whirling disease while at the foundry and only half of them and two hoops could be salvaged. My meticulously formed wax trout made it through wax sprew, ceramic shell, burnout, but bronze pour blew out the sides of the ceramic shell (one of the rare places where Total Fail can occur). My last run of 10 trout and 7 hoops had no issues, this time around saw 50% mortality.
So last Friday I drove out to the foundry and we sorted through the parts that survived and grouped them out into parts that match and parts that almost match. We came up with three workable trout, and two spare heads and a tail fin. I brought the mold along and the foundry will create the wax bodies to match the heads, as well as making one entire trout. This is not the normal easy process of making identical forms by slurrying wax into a mold. The trout are all different and have to be done half by half all by hand, painting in layer by layer, with the mold slung over the curving/recurving platform, then the halves are joined. The process is posted three blogs back, or just tap the Cutthroat link on the sidebar.
OSHA has noted that vibrating tools cause irreparable nerve damage, and glove mnfctr has not really moved beyond impact protection: except for Cestus gloves. My hands go dead (can’t even ride my bicycle as my hands catch fire then go dead from road vibration) and I am on my way “white finger”. Limiting my time on-tool and these gloves should go a long way to keeping my hands alive. Handses: the key tool.
It snowed last night, and has been spitting snow all morning. This makes for a cold shop and my motivation level reached “blogging update”. Plus, chasing is the worst…
Bonneville Trout are schooling again! I ramped the studio into wax production and pulled 6 new trout and delivered them to the foundry for rough-casting. They will eventually swim in the new Wilmington Courtyard in Sugarhouse, connecting the street of Wilmington to the Hidden Hollow riparian nature trail. This was greenlit by Salt Lake City, generously allowing City-owned reproduction rights to a private company to fulfill their public art requirement for new construction. It was a great example of public/private coordination to expand public art.
All six fish combined will require at least 40# of wax. Wax costs five times more than when last I ordered, as the manufacturer no longer sells directly (which adds a 50 mile drive just for wax). This set me to gather every broken bit of old sculptures and test-wax forms and in my hunting I discovered twenty-five pounds of wax slab & pouring foundations from creating Orpheus & Eurydice back in 2002. With everything going into the pot I just just just managed to form all 6 fish.
Christmas Elves sent me gift cards for more power tools and one of them turned out to be the best wax cutting tool ever. It trembles at 26,000 vibrations per minute, and it moves through wax like a cold laser- no more molten wax drips burning a path across the sculpture or over my hands and clothes, no more jamming hot sharp steel into myself for hours on end. Just a few minutes of hornets-nest buzzing and both sides are smooth-seamed and ready to join.
The halo of wax around the fish keeps the form tight to the mold so it doesn’t shrink and curl. It is that halo that the new tool removes so well. As the side of the mold that forms the outside curve cannot account for the amount of curve variance, I also have to bisect that fish half and shoe-horn in a custom section to take up the gap. In other words, I cut the head off just ahead of the dorsal fin and surgically insert a graft of new fish. This surgery is much easier with the new tool, and the fish hardly even feels it.
It could be argued that each fish is an original sculpture, rather than an identical version pulled from a common mold. The fish on the floor displays the surgical graft to the midsection, and thumb clamps helping hold the form in place as the hot seams cool.
He guarded his secret cache of wax for 15 years, but his cache and himself went the way of his mythic being, and shared the tragic fate of his public art twin.
The first Broad Canyon Fire painting was dark and had the sun in it; this one glows with sunlight but does not have the sun. This image views the fire from the side, while the former is a view of the fire just before passing through/under it. This was the logical companion/complement to the original painting, and a strong enough choice to stand with the original work. It may be that these two works are as far as this series can go and retain pure authority to the subject and themselves and each other. Each must have its own necessity or it becomes derivative.
The artspeak is likely just an attempt to be able to quit, as the process of transparent washes and semi-opaque layering is burning through my creative patience; i.e. this takes forever and requires allowing the painting to pass through many stages of layering to build to where it finally comes together- and it is difficult to keep this all in balance and not lose focus on the whole for the parts for the days-long processes to effect a subtle change upon a subtle change to move the work along. Yet global warming says I’ll have the full sunroom for awhile yet before I have to move the trees and plants back in off the deck, and so the theme of beautiful armageddon under the global warming sun can push me further than I would like as well…plus, they are really something in real life and my love/hate of the process may just have to suck it up as this is about making Art. The finished paintings have a life of their own, which is rare; and respecting this is an artist’s responsibility to work toward the quiet and invisible thread of direction that seems to bring itself into being.
BTW it looks totally different in person, – moodier and the layers are subtle and the colors less obvious. Reminds me of way back when showing slides to students.