Ascending Joy

Today I won Best in Show for my sculpture “Ascending Joy,” done in collaboration with fellow art student Hannah Ahern. I’ve come a long way since I walked into my first sculpture class almost three years ago, certain I wouldn’t be good at it, taking the class anyway because it was required and I’d heard Frudakis was good.

I consider myself a digital artist, but I’m studying at a school whose art department focuses much more on the traditional fine arts than on their commercial little siblings. In some ways this has been a disadvantage: I’ve had to learn more of my design skills on my own and through work than from my classes, and if I’m not careful, being one of only a few designers at the school can sometimes make it difficult for me to see how much I still have to learn.

But studying in a traditional art program has also given me the opportunity to spend time studying sculpture when I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ve now taken four semesters of art classes with Hillsdale professor Tony Frudakis, and this semester was easily my favorite. I finally had at least a small grasp of the basics. I finally had some compositional freedom. And I finally had a distinct inspiration.

I had planned to come up with a plan for my final sculpture project over Christmas break, but when I pulled into Hillsdale in the middle of January I still had no idea what I wanted to do. Only a couple days later, I came across this video of American figure skater Jason Brown at the U.S. National Championships in Boston only a week or so before. It took my breath away. His performance was so alive with the joy of doing something to its fullest potential. It was like he was created specifically for the purpose of skating and couldn’t contain his excitement at being able to share his gift. He was fulfilling his destiny and loving it.

“That’s what I want to sculpt,” I thought. Not a figure skater necessarily, but someone rejoicing at the chance to create beauty, and at the same time stretching toward a further beauty that doesn’t exist in this world. I wanted joy inexpressible pointing toward joy unimaginable–the best of earth nodding toward heaven.

Hannah Ahern was the only other sculptor in my Sculpture III class, and her ideas were surprisingly similar to my own. We brainstormed, came up with the admittedly risky and ambitious idea of making a two-figure collaborative sculpture, and soon found ourselves sketching, composing, and creating. By a rough top-of-the-head estimate, about 180 man-hours went into finishing the piece.

Working with Hannah was a joy and an honor, and I was so thrilled with how well we collaborated. I think I can say with certainty that this is the single best piece of craftsmanship I have ever produced. And the best part is that I’ve been able to taste a bit of the joy I was trying to convey. There is so much fulfillment in creating beauty. I feel blessed, joyful, and grateful that I had my own chance. And doing it with someone else made it even better.

Note: Another eight or so hours of work went into the sculpture after the pictures below were taken. The female figure’s hair changed pretty drastically, and a lot of rough areas got refined.