Mark Yale Harris Artist Review
Venus de Milo, 130-100 BC
Alexandros of Antioch
Principals of Art:
Space: In sculpture the artist balances the positive space of the sculpture against the negative surrounding space that it occupies. In Curious Couple note the beautiful curved shapes of negative space that surround the body of the cougar. The transition from positive to negative space helps define the sculpture and creates interesting new shapes when viewed from shifting perspectives.
Color: When working in bronze color is added through a patina applied by Mark to change the surface of the metal. In stone the colors are established, so the artist will choose the coloration of the stone at the beginning stages to relate with their intent. In Curious Couple you can see the change in the alabasters coloring from the peach butterfly to the yellow-green cougar. The change in color makes the different elements pop and distinguish themselves from each other.
Shape: Mark works in soft curving organic shapes. These gentle shapes soften the feel of the tough mediums of stone and bronze. You can see in Curious Couple how the soft shapes reflect each other in both the cougar and the butterfly.
Form: Circle is to shape as sphere is to form. By nature the forms of a sculpture are three dimensional. Mark acknowledges this important fact by creating a cohesive sculpture that is interesting for the viewer from every angle. The forms flow together through his cohesive style of abstraction and stylization.
Value: Value relates to the tint/shade of a hue (color). Every color can be tinted by adding white or shaded by adding black. The purpose of considering value in a work of art is to help create both dimension and a mood. When working in bronze, Mark can apply patinas to change the values of the sculpture’s surface. In stone, the colors and values are innate and uncontrollable beyond the selection process for the artist.
Texture: Subtle variations of texture make the sculpture more dynamic. Mark often sculpts to incredibly smooth surfaces that betray the organic textures of stone, making them surreally reflective. In Curious Couple the cougar sits on top of a rough stone base. This subtle change in texture sets the cougar and butterfly apart from the base and emphasizes their importance.
Principals of Design:
Balance: Balance makes the sculptures feel “right” to the viewer. Mark will balance his sculptures in creative ways. In Curious Couple the cougar would feel off balanced if it was not for the pop of color in the butterfly. The change in color is enough to add the visual weight needed to balance the cougar, even though they are so different in proportion.
Unity: The unity of a piece is what creates a sense of completeness. The continued flowing and soft edges of Marks sculptures unify them not just independently, but in his entire body of work. This continuation of style unifies the different elements in his sculptures.
Variety: Variety is what adds interest into a work of art. Small changes in texture, color and proportion create visual variety in Mark’s sculptures. In Curious Couple the change in color between the cougar and the butterfly creates visual variety to prompt the eye to move around the sculpture.
Emphasis: Emphasis is what the artist uses to create a focal point. Focal points can vary viewer to viewer, but a truly successful composition will have one clear focal point that the eye is continually drawn to over and over again. In Curious Couple the butterfly is what captures the eye due to it’s bright pop of coloration.
Movement: Movement implies motion is a snapshot of time. The lines of Mark’s stylization lead the eye around the sculpture subconsciously. You can also feel the moment of time short and sweet in Curious Couple as both quick and fleeting creatures meet, soon to be gone.
Pattern: Think of pattern as the visual skeleton that organizes the parts of a composition. This underlying structure uses consistent and regular repetition. You can have both natural and man made pattern. The curving lines that compose the sculpture create a rhythm and subtle patters to lead the eye.
Perspective: Perspective is what creates a three dimensional work of art vs a two dimensional work of art. As the viewer walks around the sculpture and it is seen from new perspectives, they are gifted new insight into the the sculpture.
When working in bronze, Mark uses the lost wax casting technique to create the birds in his sculptures which has been in use for the last 6,000 years in the production of bronze sculpture.
The process starts with making the model in clay, wax or a similar medium. Once the form has been created a mold is made around it so the interior of the ridged outer mold holds a mirror image of the original mold in it’s interior. After the mold is completed it is filled with molten wax which creates a hollow wax copy of the original mold. The wax mold is then “chased” where it is finished to look just like the original mold. This wax copy is then “spurred” with a tree like structure of wax which will act as a guide for the molten coating material and then melted away.
Once the wax copy has been spurred, it is then dipped into a slurry of silica which acts like a sand coating the entire exterior of the wax copy. This silica coated piece is placed in a kiln, spurred down, and the heat hardens the shell and the wax melts out. Now all that remains of the original artwork is the negative space formerly occupied by the wax, inside the hardened ceramic shell. Bronze is melted in a furnace then poured into the shell and then allowed to cool.
The shell is either sand blasted or hammered away revealing the rough casting. Metal chasing now smooths the edges, removes imperfections, and clips off the spurs to reveal the same mold in its finished bronze form. The patina is then painstakingly applied by the artist typically with a paint or air brush.
When Mark carves in stone he uses the ancient and traditional methods that sculptors have been developing for the many many years. Firstly, Mark chooses his stones. He will often travel to quarry to pick out stones himself that will inspire him with their colors, size, and organic shapes. The slab of stone is much larger than the sculpture will be, as it has to be carved away to reveal the sculptures that lies within. The artists must be properly protected while working in this dusty and powdered process with glasses and masks to keep the dust from entering the lungs and eyes.
The artist will design the sculpture two dimensionally first to create the rough draft of what their sculpture will look like. A hammer and chisel is used in the beginning stages to start chipping away at the stone and establishing the shapes of the sculpture. Once the forms have been established, the details are filed into the stone, and then smoothed by the artist. This lengthy and time consuming process is challenging due to the fact that there is no going back. The permanence of the artists actions give them the excitement of teetering between creation and destruction.