Icarus Rises Again

By Dominique Dennery July 4, 2017

As an Artist, it’s important to show our work. Showing our creations connects us to others who will resonate with the ideas and feelings we shaped into solid matter.

I am showing Icarus Rising for the third time. I have grown particularly attached to this large bronze piece that took me 18 months to complete and depleted my savings account!

Icarus was not commissioned but born from a stunning photograph of a dancer flying in the air. As I started working on the clay what came to mind was the myth of Icarus, drunk on freedom after captivity in the Labyrinth, flying too close to the Sun. I imagined him ascending and transcending his human condition rather than falling to his death.  I have written about the creative process in previous blogs if you are curious Shaping Icarus, Icarus’ Red Robe.

Last summer, when the violence against Black men was in plain view while I was spending time with family in the USA, I started to see Icarus Rising as a symbol of a proud man rising, despite every attempt to maim, kill, or debase. I picked him up at the foundry in the Fall and remembered my ancestors in Haiti who rose against their slave masters to become a free Nation in 1804. Many of the peoples of world have had to rise and take their freedom from the hands of those who benefited from their oppression.

As an Artist, I express my ideals and passions through my work. My form of advocacy and peaceful protest.

May Icarus Rising be a reminder to those who see it of the indomitable power of the human spirit.

Mayor Jim Watson (Dimensions 2016)

Stopping Doubt In Its Tracks

By Dominique Dennery October 27, 2016

There is a moment when your work is done, the last touches have been made to the patina and you have figured out the best stand for your sculpture. That’s when even the most confident among us start to hear the voice of doubt whisper in our ear. Is the patina too dull? Is it too bright?  Will anyone like this? Will it reach the exhibition without a scratch? Will it measure up?

The last thing you want to do is to give in to doubt and start to work over what you have done and possibly ruin it. Leave it be! Take a deep breath and trust yourself and your creations in their singular beauty and all their quirks and imperfections. Cherish the adventure.

Dimensions 2016 in Canada’s National Capital

My sculpture, Icarus, was chosen as the center piece for hundreds of visitors to see first when they entered the Exhibition Hall to peruse 120 sculptures.

Thank you to my virtual followers for your unrelenting support. It makes all the difference in the world!


sculpting with red wax

Icarus’ Red Robe

By Dominique Dennery , June 7, 2016

I had never worked directly in wax and didn’t quite know what to expect. I arrived at the foundry with Icarus poured in plaster and held up with a long metal rod I had inserted in a tender spot of his anatomy.  After some trial and error, I had decided on how high I wanted him to fly and how the cloth would drape his loins and support him in the air.

I exposed my dilemma to the foundry owners and one of them suggested that I work directly with a sheet of soft wax to create the cloth effect. The wax expert, Josée was excited about this suggestion and poured a large quantity of red wax in a mould, creating a slab I could handle once it had cooled.

What a feeling! I loved handling the thick red wax and shaping it into a feminine swirl that complements Icarus’ muscular physique.  The wax followed its own rules as it hardened. We had to move quickly to shape the final folds, and use a hot knife to remove the excess and smooth the edges.

What I found out after the fact, was that this process created an infinite number of crevasses that would need to be filled to avoid negative angles where the silica would catch. I also hadn’t quite grasped that the wax would be lost and the silica mould broken, so that once the robe was fused onto the figurine, it would not be possible to cast another Icarus without making the robe again from scratch. Live and learn, n’est-ce pas?

Next steps: Casting Icarus and his beautiful robe in bronze.

rubber mould

When You Are Done The Fun Part, The Hard Work Begins!

By Dominique Dennery May 25, 2016

Sculpting in clay means your real work is far from over once you have sculpted your ‘masterpiece’! Your next job now is to create a mould and then cast your figure in a durable material such as cement, hydrostone, fibreglass, aluminum or bronze. Cost dictates what material you use, but also the complexity of the piece. Paradoxically, a figure like Icarus leaping in the air could only be done in metal.

Moulding and casting is the exact opposite of the creative clay work, since most of it is physics, chemistry and mathematical calculations. To think that these were my least favorite subjects in school! What keeps me going are Rosemary at the studio and the Artisans at the metal foundry who are passionate about mould making, wax and molten metal. These wonderful people will spend hours helping me figure out how to turn my whimsical idea into a piece that will last centuries.Humbling!

Casting steps – Abbreviated version!

The first step in mould making is to separate your sculpture into a puzzle that can be taken apart and assembled easily for casting in the material of your choice. This takes a lot of head scratching when your piece is an intricate 3D. I used fine metal rectangles to delineate the components for Icarus and also plastiline clay to secure in place. I then created a mould of each piece. First a rubber mould then a plaster mould or mother mould to hold the first one in place.

I won’t go into every detail, but the next picture shows the gooey rubber being poured on in a transparent film to capture every bump and crevasse. You need at least 3 coats. The rubber is flexible and yet very resistant. Many masks in sci-fi movies are made this way.  The coats take many hours to dry. Next, you need to mix the plaster for your mother mould and apply that in coats as well over your rubber surface. Those also take time to dry.

The challenge is to make all the pieces of the mould fit together. Where do you put the joints, the keys? How do you avoid negative angles that are guaranteed to prevent the mould from coming off once the piece is poured? Mechanical engineering would often be an asset!

It took me years to reconcile myself with the fact that as much as I dread mould making, my art cannot be born without it. To be continued!

Model: Johnny the Legend

A Vision Sparks Inspiration

By Dominique Dennery May 10, 2016

Not all sculptors work from live models. Actually, I started Icarus from a picture I loved of a dancer leaping in the air. Such strength and abandon at the same time.  I worked on the sculpture for some weeks and then started getting lost in the muscles and sinews half hidden in the photograph.

Model: Johnny the LegendWhen the figure is standing, anatomy is easier to follow, but when your subject is flying against gravity, where do you place everything to look believable! My fellow sculptor at the Studio suggested I look into bringing in a live model.

Sitting at a sidewalk café with a girlfriend that same week, I was complaining about my sculptor’s block. And then, who appears but a beautiful muscular young man on his afternoon jog .  As he ran past us, I blurted out, there goes Icarus!

My girlfriend asked me why I hadn’t stopped him to ask him to model. I had never dreamed of doing such a thing!  As we are finishing our coffee, she literally jumps from her seat and waves and shouts to the young man who is now running on the opposite sidewalk across the street.  I cringe in embarrassment. He approaches and she explains that I am a sculptor and thought his physique was perfect for a project I had started.  To my surprise, he shows strong interest. He had always dreamt of being sculpted. I also learned that his mother is Haitian.  I had to pinch myself.

He came to the studio the following week . These pictures show him trying to strike a very difficult pose, using a stick to keep him arms up like someone leaping in the air. I learned he was training as a natural body builder. He was already Mr. Natural Ottawa and competing for the province. He has since gone on to win many competitions in his field.

You definitely can’t make this stuff up!

Why Sculpt Icarus?

By Dominique Dennery May 3, 2016

This Haitian-Canadian Artist is a rebellious soul who likes to turn myths on their head and change defeat into victory.  What if the myth of Icarus captured the very essence of what it is to be human, with a spirit that wants to soar beyond its physical boundaries? What if Icarus had flown to freedom?  A much more empowering image!

So instead of a cautionary tale, I decided to show a man ecstatic about freedom and flying towards his destiny. The next leap of logic was to see him as a symbol of a black man rising to freedom, at last.

Next week, I will start walking you through the making of this sculpture, from the life model, to the final bronze.

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