Anatomy of an Artist Exhibition- Part - 48

blog art sculpture how concrete buster artist

The Education of Buster as Concrete Sculpture-The Start-up

By Carolyn Ritchie Bedford

I’m 5 feet 1and a half inches, and Buster headless is a few more inches taller. My partner and instructor in sculpture making and art collaboration, gave me a mandate to become familiar with concrete. So the best I could with out actually having dealt with this medium was to build a rebar armature and frame it out with chicken wire with the intent the concrete would adhere. So Buster was born, head separate. He requiring a stance so off we went to the thrift stores to purchase the applicable sized sneakers and a guess on his jeans and hoodie as Buster is a teenager around 14 to 16 years of age. The clothing will be cemented and applied but first he needed to be fleshed out and made strong for a half of an outdoor installation. So on the advice of my partner Todd Vassallo I became one with the cement. As a figurative artist I decided to make some busts, not too large to handle and might be able to use them. I had stars in my eyes.

Three heads later I informed Todd that I was not going to attempt Buster myself and it was arranged that he would complete his development at and with Todd. The three heads which prompted this decision sit be some flower bushes in my front yard as a reminder that one learns from the beginning through failures and then has the knowledge for questions. This comes from Todd and probably sages before him. The heads could easily be relics dug up by anthropologist, one with a Romanesque appearance and another that could fit in at Easter Island. The decision earlier on to mold his hands with clay and then cement is still a valid and preferred method and they are in process.

Meanwhile I took an entire day and we prepared to make Buster come alive and warmed up the cement mixer. That was a pleasant sight as I had mixed the heads with a drill mixer and I learned quickly this material requires a lot of mixing, a few additives and some chop. Todd wasn’t happy with my choice of concrete but we went with it anyway. Later I got the impression he knew what was to come and my training hadn’t ended yet. As the shoes were already cemented by me he stood quite well on Todd’s welding table. We wont do that again. We began with his legs and all seemed to be going well and I just got into the dirt with my hands and enjoyed the feeling I was reconstructing with my childhood mud pie days, we then wrapped his legs in plastic to allow curing and took a much needed lunch break. Pleasant conversation and wine later we were back out with the next mixture. He was out of reach now to me so I was helped up onto the table and we continued to pack the concrete mix into Buster and rose to his chest area with the grit. It was then I heard a crack and Buster was falling. Todd pulled him back in place and his legs had shifted position, a large gauge was in his side where he had collapse the wire and his spine welds had come apart. Did I mention I’m learning to weld? Well, that wasn’t a good one. With Buster strung back up we viewed the crumpled concrete all over the table and floor.

Don’t be discouraged was what I heard from my partner. We are now on a more even plane because you know what failed and why. Always the teacher! We will let it dry, knock off the cement and reuse the armature which will be reinforced as if a pillar holding up a parking garage and change up the formula for the concrete. His shoes may still be usable and the hands are still in progress and will be beautiful. A cleanup, supper, and a wine to ease the pain of failure and with dirty nails, a few scars I went home anxious to start Buster #2 with Todd’s method and instruction. Oh, and he intends to make me do the welding under his watchful eye.

So watch for our next blog on Buster #2 being born with video.