Arts & Culture

Cast in bronze

4 min read

On a chilly afternoon in January, nine students watched in excited amazement as three leather-clad metalsmiths lifted a glowing crucible filled with molten bronze and poured fiery metal into sculpture molds. For the one undergraduate and eight graduate students who participated in “Cast in Bronze,” “Pour Day” was the much-anticipated end to a weeklong bronze casting workshop offered by the Harvard Art Museums through a grant from the President’s January Innovation Fund for Faculty. The interdisciplinary Wintersession course involved studio sessions at the New England Sculpture Service, an art foundry in Chelsea, Mass., where students had the opportunity to learn about bronze objects and the techniques of fabrication by transforming their own designs into three-dimensional objects.

On a much-anticipated day during Wintersession, Jordan Troeller looks on while Caitlin Henningsen, a fellow graduate student in history of art and architecture, and Michelle Chang ’15 prepare their relief sculptures to be cast as part of the “Cast in Bronze” workshop offered by the Harvard Art Museums. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Students carved designs into resin-bonded sand blocks as an exercise in sand casting, one of two types of casting introduced during the workshop. Adam Stack, a graduate student in anthropology, brushes a graphite coating into his sand mold. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
This casting room at New England Sculpture Service, an art foundry in Chelsea, Mass., is where the studio sessions of “Cast in Bronze” were held. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Every member of the foundry staff is a practicing artist, and, for one student, a highlight of the workshop was “experiencing and learning from a living community of artists.” Shayla MacDonald (from left), Derek Russell, and Marjee Levine teach the students. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Shayla MacDonald (from left) and Derek Russell, members of the foundry staff, carefully pour the molten bronze, heated to nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, into the sand molds. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
The workshop aimed to introduce students to bronze casting from multiple perspectives. Here the students had the opportunity to create their own bronze sculptures. Art history graduate students Daniel Zolli (from left), Marisa Mandabach, and Bing Huang are busy at work. Graduate student Jordan Troeller and Michelle Chang '15 look on. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Faces covered by heat-resistant masks and bodies protected by heat-resistant jackets and thick leather gear, the foundry staff, including Derek Russell (from left), Shayla MacDonald, Marjee Levine, and Jesse Morrisey, move in concert, maneuvering the crucible toward the casting pit. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Manager of operations at the foundry Marjee Levine (from left) speaks with Suzanne Blier, Allen Whitehill Clowes Professor of Fine Arts and professor of African and African American studies, and graduate student Nat Erb-Satullo. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Derek Russell finds a moment of repose. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Once the sand-cast reliefs are cool, the residual sand from the molds is removed with wire brushes. Michelle Chang '15 (left) admires one of the reliefs. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
A sculpture by Daniel Altshuler lays in the foreground as workshop participants learn about the tools and techniques used to rework the surface of their cast bronzes. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Jesse Morrisey (from left), Rafael Ramirez, and Shayla MacDonald, members of the foundry staff, wait for the second set of sculptures as the crucible is reheated with metal. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Shayla MacDonald, a member of the foundry staff, guides the glowing crucible toward the casting pit to begin the pour for the second set of works — medallions made from a lost wax casting process. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Derek Russell (from left) and Jesse Morrisey move in a near-silent, graceful choreography. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
The foundry provides bronze casting and related services to sculptors across New England, whose works range in scale from small to monumental. Standing next to a bronze statue sculptured by Daniel Altshuler, Rafael Ramirez (left) watches the students at work. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Students, including Adam Stack (from left), Michelle Chang '15, Daniel Zolli, Jordan Troeller, Kara Feilich, and Caitlin Henningsen, work in pairs to break away the ceramic shell from their medallions. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Metal files are used to remove casting imperfections and smooth any rough areas. Graduate student Caitlin Henningsen cleans up her piece. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
“Hands-on experience, working directly with objects, and … making our own pieces” was, for the students, the workshop’s greatest strength. “It has been a wonderful way to learn,” remarked one student. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
A sand-cast relief. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Its furnaces now calm, the casting room emits a soft glow in contrast to the quiet chill of the late January afternoon. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer