Sculpture - A Definition
The making of sculpture may be taken as a desire for the
realization of wholeness. We don't want to be on the world, but in
it. We begin by putting our identity on materials with the hope
that we will become one with the world.
Watch a child handle any material. He will deform, mutilate, or
shape the material into a new form. He may take that material
and combine it with anoter material into a structure. Or he may
set that material aside from others and give it a personal value.
Even when a child is given a toy that already has meaning
invested in it by the adult world, the child often will give it
meaning in ways unthought of by adults.
The personal meaning given materials by a child is his way of neutralizing and protecting himself from
and indifferent environment. By turning materials into an object it becomes something known.
An adult takes up the materials of the earth and works them in order to set up a relationship. An animal
feels fear in responding to an unknown thing; it responds to the unknown by staying clear of it, and
avoids establishing a connection. But man, in experiencing fear, goes towards the source. He will name
it, invent a myth to explain its action, and he will apply this knowledge to his personal welfare. He
establishes a relationship which is a kind of wholeness between himself and the source of his fear.
We are not seeking here to understand the source of fear, but rather to attempt to understand the
response that is at the beginning of sculpture. Man goes towards a relationship, while an animal goes
towards isolation. Man's self-induced fear is the result of his unfulfilled relationship with life. He creates
in order to establish a relationship with the world around him.
We have the choice of being a human being or a brute being. To experience ourselves, thoughts, and
feelings as something separated from the rest, as a restricted prison, or we may free ourselves from
this prison by widening our circle of compassion in the realization that each of us is part of a whole,
while the individual me inherits the earth for this one split second.
Sculpture has its roots, by way of handicrafts, in manual labor. We
cultivated the earth by manual labor in order to survive. The manual
work was done in order to transform material into something useful.
The interest is placed on the results. With handicrafts, the art is in
the enhancement of an object suited for use. The working of matter
is developed to reveal its fullest potentials. Man makes matter more
significant. Sculpture is significant in man's conceptualizing with the
material remaining in the background.
We are still children handling materials, naming and giving a personal value in our relationships. The
child applies the universe to himself, and from there goes on to imitation and self-expression. There he
has stopped. Most of art has stopped there. The era of a pure art reflecting wholeness hasn't begun yet,
but we can make an attempt at a start.
The making of a three-dimensional symbol that relayed information by way of inert material has been
the accepted definition of sculpture. Through the evolution of sculpture it had become cluttered with the
over-laying of symbolic messages. The history of western sculpture has been the questioning and
dismantling of the accepted idea of what sculpture should be. The concept of
sculpture that has emerged is of a non-functioning object that has a life of its
own. A sculpture no longer needs to justify itself by subject matter with the forms
construed as representational or symbolic. There is a new found freedom to take
the creation of formings were natural because they were statements of peaceful
pursuit-and joined in the phenomenon of life.