Sunday, January 23, 2011

About a month ago I was contacted by the Kellogg School of Management about a sculpture I placed at the Allen Center over 25 years ago! The caller said that in mid-Janurary the collection was going to be appraised.
I was asked to come and retrieve my sculpture, "Charting Your Course", from the Northwestern campus, give it a cosmetic touch up and return it prior to the appraisal.
Twenty five years is a long time! I distinctly remember placing the sculpture in the cafeteria with the aid of a gantry and some hefty friends. The sculpture is made of a granite column 8 feet long and a large ring of cedar. I "broke" the column into two pieces and inlaid them both in the wood at an angle. I welded a truncated steel brace that received one end of the granite and stood it up. I remember how excited I was at the time using this kind of weight and having it cantilever out into space. The sculpture stands over 9 feet tall and weighs 1200 pounds.
"No problem" was my reply, I'll be there soon to see exactly what will be involved.  Upon my arrival at the Allen Center I was surprised to find the sculpture had been moved! It now sat on the second floor, all 1200 pounds of it. I inquired how this move was accomplished, and where the nearest elevators were. The response I received was not encouraging. No one remembers just how the sculpture made the journey to the second floor. And what made it worse, the elevators were too small to accommodate the sculpture.
"Charting Your Course" mid-repair at the Studios
After taking a close look at the wooden element I decided that not only did it need to be refinished (as in a new coat of varnish) but that some of the wood had begun to deteriorate. I didn't have the vendors 25 years ago that I do now and apparently I used whatever I could get my hands on. So some of the wood had to be replaced. Getting it out off the second floor presented the biggest challenge. I enlisted my friend Ron Gard to help me with this, and together we dismantled the work and removed it in two sections.

The repairs were simple and very direct, take out the bad and put in the new. I had a wonderful time reacquainting myself with a sculpture that I hadn't seen in a very long time. I first considered making a totally new ring of wood but decided against that approach because I would be taking away the history of the sculpture and opted to relaminate and inlay new wood where needed.

Now the task was to get the rejuvenated sculpture back to the second floor in one piece. My only option was to use the "Egyptian method". That meant gather as many friends and body builders that I could muster. By the end of the week I had eight able-bodied friends that were willing to risk their lives to help me install "Charting Your Course" back on the second floor. Saturday morning 9AM we arrived on campus to do the installation. No one had told me that there was a major seminar going on at the Allen Center that day! We provided the entertainment for the day. The sounds of 8 grown men lifting 1200# up a flight of stairs made for good theater.

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