Sunday, January 24, 2010

It Really Is in the Details

This week is our last scheduled week of sculpting time on the John David Crow project. Next month, the studio team will begin molding the piece. This means that the next seven days represent our last opportunity to see the complete sculpture in one piece until the finish casting is created.

Preparations and work on the project have been such a big part of our work over the past few months that it’s a bit overwhelming to realize how far along we’ve come. And, of course, there’s the immediate pressure of making sure we get everything exactly right. The general fear that many experience when they realize they might have included a typo in a blog post or press release is nothing compared with the fear that you’ve made a mistake on a monumental bronze sculpture that will exist and be seen by millions of people for perpetuity.

Of course there are the mistakes that are subject of disaster nightmares (four toes, untied shoes, etc.), but the reality of the more likely errors is just as frightening. The project itself is so important to so many people, Steven as an artist, John David Crow and his family, the A&M donors who are purchasing the piece, and the legions of fans, that the pressure to “get it right” is enormous.

To the outside observer the sculpture seems all, but finished. Crow nearly sprints off his clay grass. Equipped in his period appropriate uniform, the sculpture features everything from detailed spikes on his cleats to the unique stripping found on mouth guards of that era. And yet, there is still much to do before the sculpture can be deemed, “finished.” I know from experience that it’s this final stage that Steven finds the most challenging. His current work days don’t have the immediate gratification of the early stages of the project. He can’t leave for the day content that there is an arm or leg that wasn’t there before. Instead, it’s a constant processes of evaluating and perfecting - checking on the draping and seams of the uniform and making sure that the texture of the piece is cohesive and suggests the different materials and finishes at play on the figure. It’s a difficult balance between making sure every detail is correct and preventing the sculpture from looking over-worked.

It’s the kind of details that only Steven and John David himself can see. For this reason we were thrilled when John David called late this week to say that he would fly in from Texas to give final notes on the project. It’s clear that in the time between today and his first visit early this fall he has come to terms with the project and accepted both the honor and the responsibility of the recognition. He came to the studio with a small leather (maroon of course) notebook with the list of questions and suggestions that he and his wife Caroline had compiled.

He was concerned about the curve of one of the pads on the figure. Caroline had shared that she thought he might have more muscular carves during his college career, although Crow thought she might have been suffering from a bit of romantic reminiscing. Each comment and reflection brought the monument one step closer to the level of authenticity required to make the final sculpture a true resonating celebration of John David and the era of his great athletic achievement.

One example of the importance of this personal input stuck me as particularly representative of how wondrous this work can be. Before his visit, we had been in back and forth communication with John David about the size of the feet on the sculpture. He kept saying he thought they were too big and we kept 'replying' that they were exactly twice the size of his actual feet and were, as a result, exactly to scale. During his visit he looked at the feet up close. Anxious to prove their accuracy, Steven got out a pair of calipers and measured John David’s feet. As promised the feet of the sculpture were two times as big. John David agreed that this was the case, but off-handedly pointed out that he wore one size smaller shoes when he played at A&M since it had been hard to find a size 10.
With that new information in hand, Steven has begun resizing the feet of the monument. It’s adherence to these kind of nuances that really set his work and the studio apart. I hope John David goes home to Texas and tells his wife that, as she requested, his sculpture is getting a few more muscles and that some day his great-great grandchildren will be able to share the story about how their “Poppa” fixed the size of the shoes on his sculpture.

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