Sculpting Subtractionist Technique
— by Charlotte Berney, excerpts
Her early sculpture employed color elements, and today she expresses her love of color in her patinas.
Shray embraced the process of bronze early in her career and considers it "an amazing medium," difficult but rewarding. The steps she takes to reach the final form are complex and her methods unusual. She begins with a large block of clay and forms it using a subtractionist method, without armatures. "Very few clay sculptors work this way," she says. She sees lines and shadows in the block and begins to work directly into the clay without having a preconceived idea. "It's rather like seeing forms in clouds. I wasn't taught this in school, but I feel freer this way," she laughs.
|Shray removing the clay -
the piece emerging.
(Click on image for larger view.
View more photos of Shray
working on her current piece.
“I see emotion in form — the hard lines, the curves. I want them to carry the human condition through and around those negative, positive spaces. No preconceived ideas, I use no armature. I see and move with the images: a spine, a hip, a gentle gaze, a sense of a story in the block of clay. My index finger begins pulling away the clay, my hands course in and out of the highlights and shadows, as they move across and expose to me the figures within. This rare technique is called the “subtractionist method.”
She rarely adds any clay back to figure and does not rework so as not to lose the spontaneity.
The piece then goes through a complex 12-step process from the mold all the way to the final pouring of the bronze. "Not many people realize all it takes to create a bronze," says the artist. "The foundry is extremely important. I'm in control of my work and consider each work one of a kind and its own entity." . . . "I have great respect for those at the foundry who work on my pieces." The finished work takes from six months to a year from the creation in clay to bronze.
Shray considers working in bronze "a huge commitment and very demanding,"because of its permanence and its long use throughout art history.
Her finished work often evokes the spirit of Rodin. "He had an ability to capture that second of movement and emotion," says Shray, and that is her goal as well. Some of her works have a more abstract quality while some capture the human form in greater detail.
Like Rodin, Shray encourages people to touch her works, believing that "until you touch a sculpture, you don't really know the piece."
— excerpts from article Depth of Feeling, Sante Fe Focus Magazine