As a freshman DAA student in my first semester at Cogswell, the only art classes I’ve taken are 2D Design and Sketching. As a social experiment this semester, I decided to observe another DAA art class that is considered more advanced. Dustin Aber’s Figure Sculpture class fit the bill nicely. The premise of the experiment was for me to attend Dustin’s five-hour Figure Sculpture class with no prior knowledge of figures or sculpting. This experiment had two purposes: first, watch as I slowly lose my mind by spending five hours working on a project where I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. The second, and the more enlightening purpose, is to provide the experience of a tough DAA class so I can get a good idea of how difficult projects at Cogswell can be--especially since I’m still struggling with Dennis’ National Geographic project for 2D Design.
From the moment I began, I had issues with my sculpture, and I wasn’t even using clay yet. Little technical elements that seemed insignificant to me when I started the project, turned out to be the keys to solving this treacherous puzzle.
The first issue was the base of my project. I learned that in order to start sculpting over a metal gesture, it needs to be secured to a solid wooden board, and the board I was trying to use was too soft to provide sufficient support. After I spent about 20 minutes trying to get my wire-stickman secured onto the board, I realized I needed an entirely different board. The next problem was even trickier to catch: the screw I was trying to use was too short and kept falling out. Once I found a bigger screw, it took me several minutes of struggling before one of the students in the class informed me, that I needed to put a washer underneath the screw to keep the foot of my sculpture from wiggling around.
At this point, Dustin had seen enough of my patheticism. And what had taken me over half an hour of confusion, took him no more than 15 seconds to complete. Afterwards, what I had to do was bend the limbs of my wire-stickman into the same shape of the model. Using clay was right around the corner, and my spirits were only slightly damaged.
As it turns out, there is more to bending a wire gesture than meets the eye, because it took me literally two hours. Half of the class time had passed, and I hadn’t even touched clay. My energy was slowly draining. Eventually, once I did start using it, everything I did was wrong. I would put a blob of clay on my piece, and Dustin or another student would come up to me and tell me to do it differently (apparently, there’s a specific order to where you put clay on your gesture first). This went on for just about the rest of the class.
At the end of the class, the students presented their projects from a previous assignment and held a group critique session. Their eye for detail was what really amazed me; especially after sculpting for several hours beforehand. Before me was cluster of masterpieces that I would be willing to buy for a lot of money. I was utterly exhausted from standing the entire time, stressed from being clueless the entire class, and ready to go home, cry, and sleep. Each student had a thoughtful constructive comment on every piece, whereas I was practically lying dead on the floor from fatigue.
I already have a great amount of respect for DAA students taking more artistically demanding classes, but this experiment revealed just how big the gap is in terms of difficulty. It’s daunting to think that within the next year or so, I’ll be taking classes like this every week rather than just once; but it’s also exciting. The thought that soon I’ll be as skillful and observant as the students in Figure Sculpture definitely gives me something amazing to look forward to. In fact, just attending one class taught me about the process of making a sculpture, and how little things that seem irrelevant, can throw an entire piece off balance. Most importantly, however, it taught me how incredibly hard-working and talented Cogswell students are, and the potential we all have.