One of the most recognizable styles of sculpture is the marble bust. Artist Tony Rosenthal creates his busts using only recycled materials, creating environmentally-friendly art. As Rosenthal tells it, “If any single plastic item went into a dumpster, I was the one who took it out.” Rosenthal creates his art by melting down water bottles, turning them into moldable wax, then casting the wax into molds, creating the busts. Rosenthal creates the busts by hand, sculpting the faces and poses out of the wax himself before turning them into bronze.
A new class of materials called “organometals” is making a splash in the world of sculpture. Among these materials is suspected to be silver, used for centuries in jewelry, coins, and currency. Organometals, however, are metallic compounds made by combining metals with organic molecules. But are these organic materials enough to replace the masters? In the history of sculpture, bronze, stone, and wood have traditionally been the materials of choice. But factoring in modern technology, recent innovations in some materials has surprisingly applied new uses and functionalities to age-old forms. Researchers are exploring innovative materials that can replace the classic techniques they used to create their work.
French sculptor and designer Jean Arp (1879-1966) once said, “Art is as old as humanity, as old as man himself.” He is right—art is as old as humanity, so in order to keep art relevant, artists must continue to invent new materials and new ways of creating. New materials have allowed sculptors to create ever more complex and delicate sculptures. Hopefully, the next great material will be 3D prints.
Materials for the Modern Time
Steel as a material or medium has been widely used in sculpture for thousands of years. In fact, it is said that the Romans used steel for sculpting as early as 216 BC and that the Greeks also created steel sculptures. Steel was widely used in metal casting and for working with wood and other materials, such as bronze. Steel as a sculpture material was rediscovered in the 19th century and appeared in the early 20th century. Nowadays, it is one of the popular materials for sculpting.
Steel can be as versatile as clay; clay can be as delicate as glass. Steel is a material whose applications are limited only by the imagination. But, it’s a lot easier to get familiar with different materials than actually to use them. Because of this, many artists may stick with traditional materials, like clay, wood, and plaster.
Concrete is a material that has played a role in shaping civilization for thousands of years. Its strong, durable, and malleable properties have led concrete to become one of the most commonly used construction materials in the world. Concrete materials have found a place in many spheres and industries—not the least of which is the construction industry.
Concrete has been with us since ancient times and continues to be one of the most popular materials for sculpting today. Concrete has many advantages that makes it popular with artists, including that it’s fairly inexpensive, durable, and available in so many different colors and finishes. Concrete has a warmth and character that other materials, like stone and bronze, can’t match.
Plaster for sculpting has existed for hundreds of years and works just as well today as it did back then. But in 2008, the Plaster of Paris was banned from use in schools because of the health risks posed by inhaling the dust particles. Today, Plaster materials for sculpturing are safer and are available in a range of colors.
Plaster materials for sculpturing are a mixture of sand and lime. They are soft and pliable, and they can be easily molded to shape. The sand is mixed with water and heated in an oven until it becomes liquid, called slaked lime. The liquid is then poured into molds to form pieces of plaster. The plaster remains soft, even after it hardens, which makes it perfect for sculpting.
Using plastic materials is the latest addition to sculpturing, which originated in the 20th century. The sculptures are made from polystyrene, which is similar to Styrofoam. The substance can be mixed, cut, and drilled easily. The bendability, strength, and durability of polystyrene make it a popular sculpting material. In comparison to other materials, the sculptures made from polystyrene are lighter and can be packed and moved more easily.
The sculpture is something that comes naturally to some, and for others, it’s an acquired taste. Whatever the case, it’s natural to think that sculpting is a skill you can learn. If you are a beginner or have been doing it for a while, perhaps it’s time to try these new sculpturing materials instead of traditional clay, wood, and glass. Moreover, improvising art according to new technology and innovations can help you stay updated and transform with the new world that is in the making.