Sustainable Materials

In the age of diminishing resources, industries having no obvious connection can all be highly dependent on the same materials and agricultural crops. Gums, resins, and colloids are excellent examples, having a wide variety of applications in food science, imaging, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals production, and the cosmetic industry. The art world has long used some of these same key materials. Photographers are familiar with the technical significance of gelatin and how it helped usher in modern photography (during an era where civil war medics sometimes used it to dress battle wounds). Sculpture has used this same material as a “waste” mold for the casting process. Gypsum plaster and gelatin constitute “gesso” which is the ground favored as a base for painting. In printmaking, gum arabic plays an important role in lithography. Agar (seaweed) is sometimes used as a paper binder or sizing agent…

My interest in this topic started with a study of printmaking techniques and the associated materials involved in making plates. Finding this incredibly flexible array of materials at my disposal, I set up a foundry of sorts, but one that uses no open flame. This in turn necessitated a study of fabrication techniques. (In the end, it would have been quicker if I just taught myself ceramics and built by hand a traditional Chinese dragon kiln. But I’ve made it a life-long habit to come into things from the side door.)

This material-based exploration has grown into the center of my practice. I am currently working on sculptures that incorporate a home-brewed resin, deriving from “waste-mold” techniques of the early Twentieth Century. The small object above was one of my earliest attempts, and by surprise taught me about “sugar bloom” that you might occasionally see on the surface of chocolate.  


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