Sunday, October 6, 2013

the sculpture deathmatch

Saturday was the 1st ever Sculpture Deathmatch at Lander University.  Two teams of sculptors gathered in the sculpture studio to design, create and install two public sculptures in a 12 hour period.

Left to right above is Gordon, me, Sean, Oscar, Kayla, KJ, Ashley and Shawny.  It is just after 9:00 am in the photo and the outdoor workspace is cool and shaded.  Everyone is smiling and no one is sweating or sore.  But not for long.

Soon the sun would shoot up in the sky and focus all it's energy on us, baking us at a humid 90 degrees in October.  That's Ashley again.  She was very sick but she showed up anyway, donated these very cool shirts, and brought us 2 dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  

Inside the studio students and friends gathered to see the show.  I think they also ate our food.  We had a steady stream of visitors and spectators in the studio throughout the day.  It was also Parent's Day at Lander so there were plenty of curious parents dropping by as well.  Professor Singletary delivered lunch and made a paint run to Lowe's.  Our department chair, Professor Slagle helped get everything started in the morning and after returning from a day in Greenville, he came back to help us move and install the sculptures.  Our Dean, Dr. Love brought her family to hang out with us for a while and her husband made a Gatorade run for us.

Team Awesome consisted of Oscar, Kayla and me.  That's Oscar and Kayla above.  Neither have ever taken a sculpture class.  Oscar is a sophomore and Kayla is a freshman.  When they began designing, they had lots of questions for me and when I began to offer some guidance they promptly ignored me and created the composition on paper all on their own.  I showed them the process and they spent the next 10 hours or so cutting, forming and placing pieces of scrap steel to create their sculpture.  All I did was weld the pieces in place for them.  

Both of them were enthusiastic and they showed no fear at all.  They both observed the welding and after a while they both had the chance to do it themselves.  Kayla also got to use the plasma torch

The other team insisted on calling themselves "Team Kick___".  I insisted on calling them "Team Not Awesome"...since this was a competition and there needed to be trash talk.  That's Sean and KJ welding in the hot sun.

For most of the day their sculpture looked like this.  The blue thing, the bird bath and the vertical steel post.  By mid afternoon I started to worry on their behalf.  The sculpture did not seem to be moving along quickly and the pieces they had were very, very heavy.  Soon it would be getting dark.

But they kept plugging along, only asking questions when it was absolutely necessary.  When the sun set, they brought out the halogen lights.  And the darker it got outside, the harder they worked.

This was a mid afternoon break in front of the fan.  The only thing more surprising than a 90 degree day in October was that the school turns off the thermostats on weekends in the studio.  No air conditioning was an unforeseen obstacle.  With the heat and the hard work, we demolished some food and drink.  During the day we went through 3 cases of water, a pack of Gatorade, soft drinks and a gallon of milk.  We ate 2 boxes of doughnuts, a plate of muffins, two giant packs of individual sized chips, several pizzas, a platter from Chick-fil-a and a truckload of cookies.  And we were all still hungry and thirsty when we left.

As a special treat I arranged for a fireworks display at dusk.  It seemed to lighten everyone's spirits.

But then it was dark and panic started to set in.  Team Awesome was putting the final touches on their sculpture inside so most of the spectators moved outside to watch the panic.  

Sean and KJ added the last pieces just moments before the deadline of 9:00 pm.  

This is Team Awesome's finished sculpture heading to the installation site.

And right at the deadline, Team Not Awesome's sculpture heading to their installation site.

The interesting thing to me is that they did it.  They pulled it off.  It's not easy to make a small sculpture in a single day and I thought it would be nearly impossible to make and install two public sculptures in 12 hours.  I expected the sculpture ideas would shrink during the day to make the process easier and lighter.  But both teams stuck to their compositions, convinced that they had thought their ideas through.  

But while the sculptures are good, the students are even better.  Given this nearly impossible task, they worked harder than they thought they could and joined together as a team.  Leaders arose and students stepped up to fill gaps.  Once the first team was finished installing their sculptures, they could have taken their exhausted bodies home to shower and eat.  Instead they stayed, along with their families and friends and helped the other team install and finish their sculpture.  When installation was complete there was a small crowd of art majors gathered around for moral support.  There were fist bumps and high fives and a short victory lap back to the sculpture studio in the back of the trailer.  And even though they were completely spent, Sean and KJ helped me put up all the tools and return the studio to working order before they left.  

Voting begins on Monday to determine the winner of the Deathmatch.  The winning team gets to split custody of the official Lander Sculpture Deathmatch trophy and team members will get to sign the cool Deathmatch flag my wife made.  

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