Mud Woman Rolls On
Roxanne Swentzell, Athena’s sister, was selected to create a large clay sculpture for the new American Indian Gallery on the third floor of the Denver Art Museum. Roxanne, a talented sculptor has exhibited all around the world, including the White House and her own Tower Gallery, did not need any help from us when it came to sculpting and creating the figures for which she is famous. However, this project presented a different set of challenges. The piece that was designed to be more than 10 ft tall and 15 ft long, needed to be built in place and be much lighter than a clay sculpture of that size. Roxanne invited us to help with the structural design of the sculpture and assist in the early stages of construction.
As with the Always Becoming project in D.C., what was needed was our familiarity with the materials we use to build with – clay and straw. After exploring different options, in order to keep the weight low, we suggested to build the core and shape of the piece out of the straw wattles that are used for erosion control. We had used them with success for the first time in the “Native Confluence” project we did in Tempe, Arizona at the Ceramic Research Center project. All that was needed was the addition of a strategy to pin and sew the wattles together and a lightweight straw-clay plaster mix as a base coat.
We also helped create a context for the piece by plastering the walls behind the sculpture with red clay.
Links to both Roxanne’s website, the Denver Art Museum’s website as well as several posts that we made to our blog about our role in Denver can be found at: