Two and a half years ago there was a nation-wide call to artists for an outdoor sculpture at a new property here in Memphis, across from the new LeBonhuer Children's Hospital. The client wanted something that would reflect the history of the old neighborhood. The old neighborhood was Dixie Homes, a property that back in the 30's was full of family, friends, baseball, music.. good fun. Sometime in the 60's, drugs started to move in and like so many other places in our country, the neighborhood that had once been turned into a run down part of "the projects". When the decision was made to relocate tenants, tear down and rebuild the neighborhood, it was important to the past residents that still had reunions there every year to be remembered for the vibrant community they had once been. So, i took lots of notes as they talked about the neighborhood and what I walked away with was this- the old name Dixie Homes was being done away with- for obvious reasons. And the new name would be Legends Park- a reflection of the legends and legendary stories that have come from this neighborhood. There once was a bayou that ran through the property called Quimby Bayou where everyone would gather and socialize. Through misunderstandings, slang or just general nick naming- the bayou became known as the "Queen Bee Bayou". Baseball was a huge part of the community and two of the young men that grew up in Dixie Homes went on to form the first Negro Minor League baseball team. Community and socializing both were important to the residents there and music was a big part of that. And last but not least, there seemed to be an immense amount of pride that pulsed through that community and still exists today in the residents that are living to tell the stories.
This is the sketch I came up with and was chosen for the project.
and here's a link to an interesting article on Legends Park- http://www.memphisdailynews.com/editorial/Article.aspx?id=39907
I won't go into how ridiculously long it's been to finally get to this point. It will only bring up frustration that I'm finally on the other side of. SO...lots of red tape and lost contracts and meetings and approvals, we are finally here at full scale fabrication. Below are photos of the making of my model that had to go through a couple different approval meetings.
the first thing i did was solder two sheets together to make the piece as large as i needed (in this case it's nickel- the full scale piece will be steel) then i began to anneal it. annealing the metal means to heat the metal and allow it to cool. this process causes the molecules in the metal to open up which makes the metal softer and more malleable.
next, i bent the metal around and shape the bat part of the design. i did this by working against an anvil using a rawhide hammer. i dapped out a circle with a nice domed shape to it and soldered that to the top and made sure the bat tapered down nicely towards the end.
when i got to this point i realized that the base of the bat i had made too small. esthetically too small but also structurally too small. so i rethought that and made a new base that the bat would actually sit down inside of.
after that, i did some sketches and laid out the sun design- testing it against the bat for correct proportion. once that was done i transferred the sun to a sheet of brass and cut that out. the sun will be three dimensional so i cut out two of each pattern, soldered them together and connected each with an interior frame work.
then i began to close in the sides -i'm using brass on the model and brass on the final piece as well.
after all the soldering had been done, i filed and sanded to remove excess solder and to shape and soften the edges- then high polished the piece before soldering it to the bat.
next i made the musical staff- also made of brass here on the model- but possibly made of copper on the full scale piece. again, the use of an anvil to bend and shape against was used here. once i got the curve and shape i wanted i attached the cross bars of the staff and connected it to the bat.
i don't have photos of this step but the next step was to decide about the musical notes, cut them out and solder them to the staff. on the drawing i just drew notes that when laid out were aesthetically pleasing. but i got to thinking....really, if someone with a musical background, or the ablilty to read music, is looking at the sculpture and begins to read the music it needed to say something- or at least make sense. so what would it be? my first thought was the obvious- "flight of the bumble bee". but it didn't seem to jive me all that much. so i considered, "take me to the river"- it's by al green, a memphis legend, the mighty mississippi, etc. but while looking through a book of soul music i came across the ultimate solution- "respect". could not be a better song for this piece. and it worked out perfectly. the exact notes on the staff lyrically are-" R-E-S-P-E-C-T find out what it means to me R-E-S-P-E-C-T". i got chills.
after that i cut out the notes, soldered them on and began dapping out the body of the Queen Bee- i shaped two half circles, then soldered them together to create her belly. the body is made of copper and the stripes are made of brass. i did this because copper can be oxidized black, which, with the brass, will give me the yellow and black that i need. her wings are made of nickel here- steel on the large piece- and her crown made of brass. (also on the large piece)
after i had the model complete, and because i'm such a dork, i drove down to Legends Park and held it out the window to imagine what it will look like. when you turn off poplar ave, you'll drive straight back and hit a semi- circle where my sculpture will be. along with the flagpoles where they have a reunion every year and other landscaping. but here are some other photos as well.