Grains of Sands; An Accidental Gift!
By Dominique Dennery July 8, 2020
The Wise Ones say there are no accident in this world. I received proof of that while creating my sculpture Erzulie -Sirène.
If you look very closely at the surface of her face and down one side of her body, you will notice grains of sand adhering to her skin. Since my goal was to create a sea goddess coming out of the ocean with a seashell in her hand, the sand was wonderfully evocative. And… it was an accident!
As with all my sculptures, I sculpted Erzulie out of clay. My colleague Rosemary and I had hired a professional model and invited a few other figurative artists to sculpt at our studio. Each one of us created a different piece, different sizes and poses, but only Rosemary and I decided to create a mould for each of our sculptures and cast our goddesses in Hydrostone – a composite that is similar to plaster but more resistant.
To cast a clay sculpture, you start by pouring liquid rubber over the sculpture in many coats. You wait until each coat hardens before pouring the next, until you have a thick rubber covering. The rubber is then covered with many coats of plaster, which is called the mother mould because it holds everything together. The next step is to remove the clay and pour the material of your choice in it’s place.
I had purchased a new rubber compound I had never used before. Rosemary was not ready to cast her larger sculpture, so I was the first to experiment with the new rubber. Two heavy containers arrived, one filled with an orange molasse and the other with an equally gooey white substance. A small bottle of hardener came with it. The instructions left us scratching our heads so I called a colleague who had used this compound before. I faithfully took down her recipe.
I mixed the two substances together for the required time and then added a few drops of the hardener, as instructed. I ended up with a very liquid orange film that behaved like a big bubble gum about to burst!
I decided to let the alien substance settle and waited until the next day to pour a second coat, hoping to fill in any surface of the sculpture left exposed. Before I mixed a second batch, I decided to call my experienced friend again and report back on the experience. I repeated the recipe. “Domi, that was 30 drops not 3!” Right. No wonder!
Removing the first coat would have damaged the clay sculpture, so I poured the other rubber coats with sufficient hardener, created the mother mould in plaster, removed the clay and finally poured the Hydrostone.
I was really apprehensive when lifting her rubber envelope to reveal the mess underneath. But there she was, as beautiful as I had hoped and covered in sand like a mermaid coming out of the sea. Wow!
Since then, I have had other accidents, some happy and some not, but I see them all as part of my learning journey. I am grateful for this one accident, and thank my lucky stars!
The Tale Of The Mermaid’s Tail
By Dominique Dennery January 24, 2017
Building my first giant mermaid tail was quite the adventure! A few years ago, I completed a sculpture of the bust of the Haitian goddess Erzulie Sirène. I was tickled pink when I sold the original Hydrostone and then a Bronze to two collectors. I thought the process complete. In early December I woke up from a dream about this mermaid and decided to start working on her tail. Seemed like a fun idea to get me back to sculpting after the Dimensions Exhibition.
Later in December, I attended a party that brought together artists and patrons. A man approached me and asked about my sculpting. I explained that I was working on Erzulie Sirène and started to explain who she was in our Haitian mythology. He looked at me intently and explained that he was a mystic in the Celtic spiritual tradition and had been introduced to Erzulie and the message for me was to finish the tail. I am not making this up! I had to pinch myself.
This is not the first time I have experienced magical coincidences as an Artist (see the blogs on the creation of Icarus) and then there is Medusa (but that’s for another blog). It seemed I had no choice but to continue.
I had started with the armature, and would not recommend using chicken wire again to build anything! It seemed like a great idea at the time, but the ends of my fingers were pricked so many times that I will happily go the route of Styrofoam for the next big armature! I also decided to use a clay that does not dry, since the Holidays were coming up and I would not be able to work on it for long periods. Another choice I won’t make again! I have been fighting with this gooey white substance from the start.
Enough complaining. Now it’s 90% done.
Now, on to the mould so that I can start working on a few new commissions. This was no doubt the flight of fancy I needed to help fight the winter blues!
Exhibition Time: Dimensions Fall 2016
By Dominique Dennery September 21, 2016
Believe in yourself, believe in your Art! Showcase what you create! You are the Artist you have been waiting for!
These words from a dear friend who passed away recently resonated with me these past weeks as I get ready for upcoming exhibitions.
Fall is a big season for Art. Artists from the visual arts, film, and performing arts are busy presenting their masterpieces to the world. It’s both intimidating and exciting to get ready to stand by your creations and face public scrutiny. Your work can be received extremely well by friends and colleagues, ignored or worse, torn apart by the critics who yield their influence with relish. How do you keep your confidence and enthusiasm intact through this agitation?
In my other work, I keep very steady in the face of other people’s opinions. Whether they like my work or not, does not rock my world. I have a solid reputation, numerous clients, and feel secure. I can take criticism for what it is: someone’s perception. A client doesn’t want what I have to offer? Deep inside I think: their loss! It therefore came as a surprise these last few years to realize that this bold attitude does not transfer to the Artist who feels vulnerable about what comes out of her soul and is shaped by her hands.
There are volumes written about this state of mind in the Art world. Popular culture has often showcased the roller-coaster of the Artist’s life. As I celebrate my 5th year of coming out as an Artist, I find that I am starting to take on some prima donna traits. The thick skin of the consultant is becoming paper thin. The level-headedness is gone. I can feel mood swings coming on! I had no idea I would be transformed into the temperamental creatures I used to find so odd and amusing from afar. What a humbling discovery!
So, I find myself repeating my friend’s words like a mantra as I get ready to exhibit my latest sculptures next month. She would no doubt also tell me that life is too short to be timid. Now is the time to grab the world by the horns!
Come join me for the unveiling of my recent works at the Dimensions Fall 2016 – The National Capital Network of Sculptors Exhibition from October 20 – 23rd.
Tribute To My New Tribe
By Dominique Dennery August 24, 2016
I spent most of my working life in the corporate world. I have become very skilled at what I do and find great satisfaction in helping clients get results. The people I have met along the way have been wonderful and have become my professional tribe. I have such affinity with them and truly enjoy their companionship. We spend hours sharing our stories of struggle and success. We understand each other. So why a new tribe?
In the last 10 years sculpting, which initially was a hobby, has become a passion and demanding occupation. In this new world, I have been surprised to find a new tribe. These individuals couldn’t be more different than my first tribe. They are artisans handling fire, metal, water, wax and chemicals. They work with heavy machinery wearing goggles, aprons and steel-toe boots. They are dedicated to one purpose only, creating bronze sculptures dreamed up by Artists with hyperactive imaginations!
In workshops covered in plaster dust and red wax, and foundries full of strange instruments and metal scrap and rods, I have found a new tribe who are as dedicated as they are quirky, as logical as they are passionate, and as stubborn as they are creative. They are the ones who give life to my work and yet rarely do they get recognized and celebrated. These professionals have called on their best skills to bring my sculptures to life: Freedom, Medusa, Erzulie, and now Icarus.
May this exceptionally talented tribe live long and prosper!
Thanks For The Memories!
By Dominique Dennery April 2, 2014
The month-long exhibit at the Fritzi Gallery has come to an end. What a rich experience! Being chosen with 4 other women artists to participate in a show for Black History Month was both a pleasure and an honour. Our art pieces in bronze, glass, paper clay or acrylic were diverse and complimentary. The synergy during the Artist Talk was palpable. When one of the audience members asked us what we do when we are involved in creation and it’s past our bedtime, we answered in unison: “We don’t stop!” And laughed. Since then, we have exchanged information, resources, traded pictures. Thank you Malika Welch, our Curator for bringing us together!
By Dominique Dennery April 3, 2014
I lead a pretty full life, but I must say the last month was the most intense I have experienced in a long while! Not only was I busy in my day job facilitating, coaching, consulting, travelling, but also I was just as busy on the art front. Be careful what you ask for! The Artist is smiling proudly, the entrepreneur and woman is almost out of breath. The BHM Art Show from February 6th to March 16th at the Fritzi Gallery was a success. Great exposure.
The Rogers TV appearance on February 20th as Ginette Gratton’s guest was very enjoyable, with some guilt over the money spent on a new dress, necklace and shoes…. The article on yours truly in Ottawa Woman Magazine (Feb issue) was a nice surprise. It mentioned that I sculpt full time. Not quite true (smile). One of the proudest moments was getting a call from the Haitian Embassy to compliment me on my work and ask if I would participate in future projects with them and the Haitian diaspora. I feel blessed. My feet have not quite touched the ground. Thank you all for your gracious support through this eventful time!
By Dominique Dennery January 29, 2014
This was the second year Dominique Dennery’s bronze sculptures were displayed at the Figureworks annual exhibition located at the Saint Brigid’s Centre of the Arts, 310 St. Patrick Street.
Figureworks curates juried annual award shows in Ottawa, ON. The exhibition aims to provide an opportunity to celebrate visual art of the human form from both national and international artists.