Cubist Giraffe sculpture

Giraffe, cast plaster, 1985The project was to render structure in clay - either a landscape or some kind of skull.

Nick Edmonds, my sculpture professor for two years at Boston University, was a New Englander and a man of few words. I learned a tremendous amount from him about construction, movement, drawing, and form. His silent but dynamic demonstrations made a deep impression on me, and for a few months at the end of my sophomore year, I thought I wanted to major in sculpture.

At first I was intrigued by the challenge of tackling a landscape. I chose a photograph from a visit to South Africa, a vineyard with mountains. But I soon abandoned it for an African animal instead - a giraffe, which turned out to be challenging in a different way.

In those pre-internet days, finding images wasn't that easy. I found a few giraffe pictures, but a giraffe skull? No luck. I settled for splicing together what I could glean from the giraffe photos with horse anatomy.

It's a misnomer, really, to call it a cubist sculpture. It's more about construction, about the bones and the architecture of form, about simplifying organic detail. But whenever I see it, in the back entry to my parents' home, I pat the cool plaster on the head and am struck by the through line to the cubist vein in my current work. I could never have imagined then the manner in which I'd end up painting.