THE THREE GRACES
Urban Motion Series
26”H x 26” W
In May 2004, while standing in front of Symphony Space’s Thalia Theater on the corner of 94th and Broadway in New York City, I noticed a young woman with a waterfall of hair almost covering delicate features and dressed in muddy attire, except for shiny, red plastic, stiletto-heeled boots.
I'd never seen her in the neighborhood before, and knew instantly she would be perfect for a new work, "The Three Graces," based on an urban version of the sculpture by Antonio Canova (1757-1822). Just couldn’t get the vision of this startling woman out of my mind.
A week later, passing the Thalia Theater, there she was again, looking very ‘street’ in white, shiny boots. I asked her if she would pose for a sculpture, she accepted, and that was how I found my first live model, and the woman who would represent Thalia, of course! The three Graces are Aglaia (Splendor), Euphrosyne (Mirth), and Thalia (Good Cheer).
The summer passed with occasional thoughts about getting started on the new work, and questions of where I might pose her, without bringing her to my apartment. She looked dangerous. Time passed.
Then came the autumn, and who gets on the Broadway bus and sits next to me? Taj, with the weeping willow hair. She’s a struggling jazz singer and composer, working as a nanny.
When she arrived at my apartment, she brought a suitcase full of funky costumes from which I selected an outfit. As she posed, I photographed her in the round.
SCULPTING THE GRACES
Over the next three months, at NY's legendary Art Student League, I developed a clay sculpture, with Taj as the goddess, Thalia, seen on the left of the work. I worked both from photographs and Taj herself. The other goddesses, Euphrosyne and Aglaia were created intuitively. The three figures were built on a triple armature. Antonio Canova’s work was observed for pose and grace.
CASTING THE GRACES
When the piece was completed, and still damp, the difficult and time-consuming process of making a plaster mold and casting was begun.
Over the next six months the plaster was refined. All breaks in the cast were repaired and, where necessary, recreated in plaster; dents, damage and holes filled. The next step was sanding with increasingly fine sandpaper and steel wool.
The piece was finished to appear as a bronze, with layers of colored pigments mixed with shellac, and then buffed, sanded, and polished by hand to bring out the sheen of warm, bronze highlights.
The daughters of the Greek god Zeus and the nymph Eurynome were named Thalia, Euphrosyne, Aglaia. These Graces symbolized all that was noble, beautiful and pure that had ever existed on the face of the earth. They presided over banquets, dances, and all other pleasurable social events, and brought joy and goodwill to gods and mortals. Thalia, Euphrosyne and Aglaia danced to the music of Apollo.
Like the Muses, they were believed to endow artists and poets with the ability to create beautiful works of art. Without the Graces, it was said, there could be neither pleasure nor dancing.