Frequently Asked Questions – An Interview with Sculptor Eduardo Gomez
Q. What exactly is a “Memorial Sculpture”?
A. It is a commissioned sculptural work of art created to preserve the memory of a person or group of persons or significant event or experience.
Q. Are sculptures also used to memorialize the living?
A. Yes, Memorial Sculptures can memorialize living individuals or more current events or experiences. “Living Memorials” are becoming more common today. More people are able and interested in chronicling the lives of their loved ones, their own lives, events, achievements or activities. Many people also want to “participate” in the creation of the work of art as part of their ongoing life experience.
Q. Can you give me examples of “Memorials”?
A. Memorial sculptures can be extremely varied. They may include a loved or admired person, a pet, and a hobby, a moment in life, such as a woman wanting to memorialize her youth or her motherhood with a pregnancy body cast. They may include a famous figure, an institution, or even an abstract idea such as justice, charity, faith, courage, freedom etc. A memorial sculpture can also provide a channel allowing one or many individuals to express their grief for the passing of a loved one, a hero in their lives, or a historic event.
Q. How do you go from an idea to a visual concept?
A. Art is a visual language. As such, it is a way of expressing ideas and feelings. In a memorial sculpture, the first job of the artist is to give visual form to an idea.
Q. How do you give visual form to an idea?
A. First, I like to meet with the individual patrons and listen at length to their stories and their ideas and feelings on the subject of the memorial. I also like to meet the people who are the subjects of the memorial personally, if they are alive. If deceased, through family and acquaintances, photos, writings, videos, movies, personal objects, accomplishments etc.
Q. Why do you try to meet the subjects and research their lives?
A. The ritual of doing this research helps me become well acquainted with the subject’s character and spirit. I am aware that there is a personal story or set of circumstances that motivates the desire to commission a sculpture. These are the seeds from which the visual idea will eventually emerge. But the artist’s personal interpretation is also key.
Q. Why do you say that the artist’s personal interpretation is key?
A. The artist digs deep into his or her own personal and artistic experience to develop a visual expression for the idea of the memorial. For example in my own case, the tragic loss of our beloved oldest daughter to cancer when she was only four; the pain, desperation and the hopeless sense of personal loss we suffered as a family is a mooring where I would naturally stop if I were working on a posthumous memorial.
Q. Why is the artist’s personal life experience important?
A. Because what makes any piece of art unique and valuable is the artist’s personal interpretation which is a product of three things; his or her artistic talent, unique sensibility and life experience.
Q. How can we be part of the process of creating a memorial?
A. I am also aware that the process of creation of a memorial sculpture can many times serve as a healing component of the grieving process of an individual or a group. It may also help to tie loose ends and bring closure. For this reason, I create a private memorial project blog for certain projects, where I encourage patrons, relatives and other interested parties to contribute their feelings, stories, pictures, quotes, etc.
Q. So after you’ve come up with a visual concept, how do you evolve to an actual sculptural composition?
A. Once we have narrowed down the visual concept, it is time to develop a sculptural composition. If we are talking about a portrait bust, I normally have the subject sit for an initial session of about 2 hours; during this session I will try to become acquainted with the subject as well as distinctive postures and physical nuances that bring out their character. We will try different poses to allow me to conceptualize in my mind’s eye what is the best possible design for the sculpture. I then will take referential photographs as well as some basic measurements. Depending on the project, I may ask the person back for a second sitting at an advanced stage.
If the person is deceased, I work from photographs provided by others. Sometimes I am lucky to find a sibling or a son or daughter with similar physical characteristics. This can be helpful in a variety of ways because that individual can provide a sense of the size and proportionality if not of the exact likeness.
Q. What is the ideal size of a Memorial Sculpture?
A. It depends on the location and the context. I like to make portrait busts about three quarters life size because larger sculptures are too large for normal indoor display spaces. If the sculpture is a table top figurine, I use a size of about one fifth life to one fourth life size for an inside display space. Privately commissioned sculpture tends to be smaller because of smaller spaces. Larger pieces are normally stand-alone. Anything larger than life size in figurative sculpture is considered monumental. Public sculpture is mostly monumental.
Q. So how would you proceed in the case of a public sculpture?
A. Public sculpture normally requires the preparation and approval of maquettes. A maquette is a small but complete mockup of a large sculpture. Due to the costs involved, it is common practice to have approved maquettes before proceeding with enlarged work. Many public sculpture projects have a separate budget to fund the making of maquettes for submissions from potential artists at the request for proposal stage.
Q. What about pedestals?
A. Visually the pedestal becomes a part of the work of art. The way a sculpture is mounted either helps or takes away from the work of art. Depending on the project, the sculptor is normally involved in the design although not necessarily in the construction of a pedestal. Sometimes the sculptor also is consulted in designing the surrounding context. The sculptor must be involved with the architects and the contractors as a team until the sculpture is mounted to avoid costly visual mistakes.
Q. So do I get to look at the work before it is, so to speak, cast in bronze?
A. Circumstances allowing, the original work in clay will be reviewed and approved by the patron before it is cast. At this stage I encourage patrons to physically see the work. As I finish the clay modeling, I have found their observations at times can be very helpful and can help me improve the work. “She had a more protruding chin” a daughter once commented about her deceased mother during a visit. I had her wait for a few minutes while I made some quick changes to the clay figure. The tears in her eyes told me that her likeness had improved.
Q. How and when is a commission contracted for?
A. Upon the patron’s decision to engage the artist, a commission agreement is prepared for the patron’s review and approval.