The Rockport Center for the Arts (RCA) has announced it is acquiring new work by nationally recognized figurative sculptor Kathy Wardle. It is the second new piece to be procured this year for the RCA.
Made possible by a contribution from an anonymous donor, Beach Day is a one-of-a-kind bronze piece conceptualized by the donor, the artist, and the RCA with Rockport in mind. Depicting a family of five walking to the beach, the 400-pound, three-quarter life-size sculpture is scheduled to be completed December 2021. It will eventually be displayed with prominent visibility along S. Austin Street, near the new $8.7 million RCA campus currently under construction in the heart of downtown Rockport.
“I attempt to depict humankind’s finest traits in my artwork,” said Wardle. “Courage, bravery, triumph, hope, kindness, joy and love are emotive themes I have tried to communicate in past works. In Beach Day, I revisit emotions that I believe are eternally important to our humanity. Beach Day shows a family filled with love and joy as they head to the beach for a wonderful day of fun and togetherness.”
With a Master of Visual Arts and vast experience studying with internationally acclaimed artists, Wardle has been teaching three-dimensional design and creating representational sculptures in bronze for four decades. The work of this Colorado-based artist is technically correct as each piece of clay is shaped and positioned to maximize her intellectual and emotional interpretation of the desired message. Wardle often finds herself marveling over the artistic act of making a lump of clay come alive, becoming intimately involved with the texture, shape, rhythm, and emotion her art conveys.
“In late 2019, we started working on the concept for a representational sculpture that had a deep connection to who we are as a people in Rockport,” said RCA Executive Director Luis Purón. “We interviewed six artists from across the United States. We asked them to study our community and present concepts. Wardle’s Beach Day surfaced as the strongest candidate because the concept was specifically tied to our community.
“In November of last year, we signed an agreement with Wardle, and she started work on Beach Day right away. At the end of August, we visited her at the foundry in Loveland, CO, where the sculpture is now ready to be cast.”
Wardle is hands-on start to finish, from the block of clay she uses to create the piece to supervising every step through the finished bronze sculpture and the patina process, so it’s only natural she would work with professionals equally dedicated to their craft in this lengthy and meticulous process.
She completed the long and intricate process of clay molding the sculpture this spring. DuChateau Sculpture Services, a professional 3-D scanning and digital resizing provider in Loveland enlarged the clay sculpture. Using 3-D digital scanning and custom designed milling machines, DuChateau replicated the specific details of the sculpture to create the armature, a high-density foam version of the piece. Dan Ochs of Ochs Wax Pouring of Loveland then began his part of the process. Serving artists for more than 30 years, Ochs carefully separated the sculpted figures into sections and brushed on coats of rubber over the clay sculpture pieces, followed by a plaster mold. The sculpture was separated into 30 pieces. Wax was poured into the plaster molds followed by a silica sand mixture used to make ceramic shells over the wax forms as part of the “lost wax” process to be completed at the foundry.
Beach Day’s molds are now at Bronze Services of Loveland, Inc. where they are beginning the bronzing process. Known as the highest quality bronze fine art foundry in the U.S., the company utilizes top-of-the-line materials and specializes in the “lost wax” casting process, providing high-end service to acclaimed artists from around the world. Once the bronzing process is completed and the molds are removed, the 30 individual Beach Day sections will be carefully welded together and re-sculpted, using specialized tools to refine the piece to exactly match the original clay sculpture.
The last step is to patina the finished five elements that comprise the sculpture.
“I like multi-colored patina in my sculptures that allows bright colors other than the traditional browns and ochres to be part of the finished look,” Wardle said. “I think it adds visual excitement and heightened reality to my work.”
In addition to the RCA’s first edition Beach Day sculpture, up to four other full-size sculptures are permitted for casting by the artist. Including Wardle’s Beach Day, RCA’s public art program will feature a total of 17 pieces of art in its permanent collection.
The RCA has moved temporarily to 401 S. Austin Street at the Baker Law Building, first floor, while awaiting the completion of a new facility in August 2022. Hours of operation for the showroom, galleries, and gift shop are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Visit rockportartcenter.com, follow RCA on Facebook, or call (361) 729-5519 for more information.