suzanne firstenberg | washington dc

Dead Sea

suzanne firstenberg | washington dcSculpting, simply, is the manipulation of material to give it voice. A prime example of this is Richard Serra’s Sylvester (Glenstone Museum), a 13-foot torqued spiral that invites viewers to wander through to its ovoid center. Its encircling walls of rusted steel exude energy distinct from the strength one’s knowledge of hard metals imbues in them. It is palpable. The relationship an artist has with a material defines the creative product.

One day, I spied a large sheet of 16-gauge steel, a material with which I had enjoyed scant experience. I removed my work glove to caress its smooth, oily surface. Gripping its sides, I tested its flex. Overwhelmingly, I wished to subdue it, to bend it to my will. Plasma cutter in hand, I separated its flat expanse into a series of curves; I riffled its smoothness with a right-angle grinder and gave it life—that would reflect death—through cold bending it against an anvil, hammer in hand. Seaweed emerged. A cold, flat sheet of steel became never-motionless seaweed, but the material conveys the reverse journey as our seas succumb to the manifestations of man.