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How Much “Hands-On” Must Qualify for Authorship? Pt. 4

michael binkley sculptor sculpture vancouver canada granite public art changsha china

I have been writing about how much “hands-on” work must be done for an artist to claim full authorship of a sculpture (see Pt. 1 , Pt. 2 , and Pt. 3).

Up until recently, I have carved every one of my sculpture creations from conception to completion. This process is not the norm in the long history of stone sculpture. In most cases, sculptors credited with creating a stone sculpture have never touched the artwork, except to sign it. Artists like Rodin, Cavova and Bernini all conceived their sculptures in a medium like clay or plaster, making a model of the idea first. Sculptors still use this process today and it gives the artist the luxury of correcting mistakes or making changes to their concept before executing the stone version. The model is then sent to a stone carving studio, where the stone version of the sculpture is produced. This is done either by trained craftsmen or by robot CNC machines. When the sculpture is finished, the artist then signs the artwork.

I experienced this process for the first time in September, 2014. I was selected to represent Canada at the Changsha International Sculpture Art Festival in Changsha, Hunan, China in the fall of 2014. I was required to submit a scale model for my sculpture two months in advance. I wanted to carve my sculpture from granite, as it was to be an outdoor public art piece. I carved my concept from high density modelling foam and it is pictured above left. I had created it 1/4 scale, requesting that the granite be 8 feet tall. Not wanting to risk the organizers possibly pirating my design, I sent my model to them 80% complete. I also wanted to ensure that I would have SOME work to do during the 45 day Festival!

When I arrived in Changsha, China on Sept. 15, I was greeted by a 12 foot tall piece of flawless granite that was the exact replica of my model. The subtle marks of my fingers that I left in the foam model were all visible on the granite piece! It was eerie for me to realize that a huge amount of roughing out work had already been completed. Although the granite was four feet taller than I had asked, I was left the joyous task of completing the final 20% of the sculpture during the event. I must admit that not having to do the first 80% of grunt work of roughing out the sculpture and only having to put the flourish of details was a very pleasant experience!

Some of the other sculptors in the Festival submitted final design, finished models of their sculptures and their pieces were complete upon the artist’s arrival in Changsha. They merely had to sign their name to their sculpture. I have no doubt that if I had submitted my concept as a finished model, that my 12 foot granite would have been completely done as well.

And although a major portion of the physical stone removal was done by others (I could not get an answer as to whether it was humans, or a CNC machine), I felt confident that I could ethically put my signature on the completed sculpture. I had designed the concept through a model and then completed the carving process, so by rights, I feel I can fully claim authorship.

I titled my sculpture “Look to the Horizon” and it now resides in Yanghu Wetland Park in Changsha, Hunan, China.

Comments: 3

  • April 28, 2015

    How do we find comments from others?

  • April 28, 2015

    Just click on the link at the end of each post. So far, there are only 2 comments on each of Part 1 & 2. You’re not missing much!

  • April 28, 2015

    There are a few more comments attached to my FB posts, so check my timeline.

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