Michael Binkley carved this original representational stone sculpture of a female nude from a block of limestone quarried in the state of Indiana, USA. This particular limestone has been used for decades for architectural purposes. For example, the National Cathedral in Washington, DC is made of this stone and the Empire State Building is veneered with it. Being a sedimentary rock, the grain of this limestone has evidence of tiny shell shards and is deceptive in appearance. To the eye, it looks rough, but Binkley carved and polished the female figure to a silky smooth surface that is surprising to touch.
In 2008, Binkley started doodling ideas for this tall, narrow block of limestone. This block is an off-cut from a larger block that was used to carve the public art sculpture, “Kelp and Oyster Shell.” Based on its six foot tall narrow shape, the sculptor envisioned a female figure, draped backwards over the top of the block, leaving a good portion of the original block un-carved.
As Binkley was working on the figure’s legs, he began undercutting more and more. Eventually, the artist released her legs completely from the block and carved almost all her buttocks. The curve that her legs form is reflected in the curve of the stone that he cut away from behind her legs. On this revealed surface, he made a textured chisel pattern that helps to lead the viewer’s eye upwards.The eye is led up the figure from her feet to her face and then follows down to her cascading hair. Her left arm languidly drapes and her right hand brushes through her hair. What began as an idea of a figure lying on top of a stone pillar changed into a figure that appeared to be floating.
When Binkley installed it in the gallery for the 2008 Studio Show, the first title was “Water Siren”, as he thought she looked like she was floating in liquid. But at the opening of the exhibition, one patron said she thought the figure looked like the nude was emerging from the stone – she used the term “awakening” from the block – and that she was floating in air. Binkley loved the concept enough to change the title to “Awakening”.