Archive for the Balderdash and Bronze Casting – One Man’s Life in the Arts Category

Ancient Egypt meets ’50’s Car Culture

Posted in Balderdash and Bronze Casting - One Man's Life in the Arts on July 24, 2011 by bernardcorman

I have often been inspired by picture books. This was definitely the case for some of my early explorations of conceptual automotive design. The book “Dreamcars’ by Jean Piccard had a huge impact on me. I made a point to look for other books that covered styling from what I considered the golden age of design, the postwar fifties era. One prize possession in my book collection is a soft cover car  ‘primer’ put out by Post Productions, a small publishing house based in California in the 1950’s, that covered several automotive styling related areas.  The book that I have is about ‘studio’ type styling.

Post Publications book of automotive design

There are several others put out by Post that are about custom car restyling.  These are coveted by guys in the Hot Rod hobby.

One book that had a particular kind of impact on me was a catalogue of items that were featured in a well known show of Tutankhamens’ artifacts that were on display at various museums in the mid 1970’s. Once, as I was paging through it looking at a portrait bust of Tut in gold,

Catalogue from 1976 tour of Tut artifacts

I had a flash-I saw a ‘50’s car instead of a human face (I used to have cars on the brain all the time). I called the resulting sculpture “TutanCaddy”.


This piece was very popular, I made a number of them, at least 7 or 8.  It’s currently on the list of things I’m planning to enlarge and recast.


Truculent Hero

Posted in Balderdash and Bronze Casting - One Man's Life in the Arts on July 18, 2011 by bernardcorman

Around the time I had been working on the ‘Iron Horse’ piece (a retelling of the Centaur myth) I was also thinking about comic book characters and their vehicles. I had always thought the Batmobile was very cool and fun, especially the one that Barris Kustoms had created for the ‘60’s television series. (This was a souped up and customized ‘dreamcar’ from the ‘50’s, the Lincoln Futura).

1960's era Batmobile (click to enlarge)

I started thinking that it would be interesting to create both a new superhero and the vehicle that he rode in. This is how ‘HammerHead’ came about. Since I had already spent time earlier in my career creating my own ‘retro’ styled concept cars it wasn’t hard for me to create a new vehicle. I wanted it to have some visual impact so I made it a little bit bigger than most of what I had made up til then. I have always been fascinated by hammerhead sharks and thought that would make a visually intriguing figure. I started working on a musclebound physique and studying pictures of sharks.

Making the mold for the car was a little tricky but my friend Clay Ervin had some key pieces of advice that made it work. Once every month or so the Atelier would pour some aluminum and the people that were interested could sign up to have some of their stuff poured that way. I thought this would work well for this project.

Since this was an homage to comic book art and I wanted a way to help convey this feeling, I thought it would be amusing for the title to tell part of the back story. One of my friends at the Atelier at the time was a guy named R.J. Runas. R.J. was way into comic books and sequential art so I asked him to come up with a piece of writing; a day or two later he gave me a short paragraph which I have used as the title ever since. It casts this character as a criminal which makes him more of an anti-hero.

This is the title:

“As night falls over the city of Aquaria,
the dark side awakens. The Underworld
comes out to play their sinister games.
HammerHead, the most dreaded and feared
criminal has come back to the planet to
extract his revenge on the man who exiled
him to the prison moons of Xandria…” 

This piece is part of my own permanent personal collection.  It was created in 1992


Conquering $uccess

Posted in Balderdash and Bronze Casting - One Man's Life in the Arts on July 11, 2011 by bernardcorman

Working on the Wildcat project took longer than I expected. It was a big clay and there were lots of details and places that required a lot of attention. I ended up sculpting the spoke wheels by hand and that took months. I sculpted a hexagonal patterned base for the piece to sit on and also recreated the logo I had made a rubbing of, in clay.

Wildcat Logo in Stainless Steel

Later during the production phase I had my friend in Maine cast these up in stainless steel.

One of the shows I attended around this time was an antique car auction that happens every year in Atlantic City. I usually liked to bring clay and some tools with me both to pass the time and also I’ve found it to be a conversation starter with people. At this particular event there was an obese gentleman who had the booth next to mine. Covertly I started to use him as a model; I had had an idea kicking around of a big fat man riding in a teensy little car wearing a fez a la the Shriners. When I got home I worked on this further. I cast one in bronze and then had the idea of putting him on a unicycle. This piece eventually came to be called ‘$uccess’ and was my version of a motoring mascot. (AKA a hood ornament). $uccess was a popular piece, I made a bunch of them in bronze.


The Nth of Cool

Posted in Balderdash and Bronze Casting - One Man's Life in the Arts on June 28, 2011 by bernardcorman

Lead East is a New Jersey tradition. Since 1983 it’s become one of the biggest and best car shows on the East Coast. More than a car show, it’s really a celebration of the entire culture of the 1950’s. The music, the fads, the attitude of ‘cool’. All of this put together by a guy named Terry Cook. Terry was an editor in the ‘70’s for Hot Rod magazine and had other experiences in the automotive publishing industry.

By the time I got to Lead East it was a very popular event. After telling Terry what I was up to with my art I was able to rent some table space in a part of the show where vendors sold various types of things related to ‘50’s car culture.

One of the first people I met at Lead East was a big, rumpled Teddy Bear of a guy named Wayne Mauro. Wayney is a painter. He works mostly in acrylics and oils.

Motorcycle racing art by Wayne Mauro

He’s a big hearted guy whose mechanical skills are even more amazing than his brushwork. Wayney built and campaigned his own F-1 car for awhile in the ‘80’s. In case you don’t know that’s like an Indy car.

The first couple of times I was at Lead East were great. I met a lot of awesome people and my work was well received-I sold a bunch of it there.

One guy I met was a real character. He was from Staten Island. In the modern idiom he was a lot like Tony Soprano. But this was the early nineties so I didn’t have that reference point. He had a rare old Buick and was impressed with my rendition of the Buick Lesabre dreamcar. (In fact he bought a copy). He wanted to know if I was willing to take on a commission. I said sure.

Venus on Wheels Pt. 2

Posted in Balderdash and Bronze Casting - One Man's Life in the Arts on June 19, 2011 by bernardcorman

The collector that commissioned ‘Big Ass Buick’ also purchased copies of ‘CaddyCorner’ as well as the motorcycle piece I came to call ‘Iron Horse.’  His house was amazing. He was an astute collector that had many different types of things ranging from sculptural art and glass to traditional Japanese Prints and  antique vehicles. He even collected vintage cap pistols.

"The Chief," sculpture by Robert Toth

One of the art pieces he had was an amazingly beautiful bronze of a vintage Indian ‘Chief’; a legendary motorcycle from the ’40’s. I asked him who had made it and he told me it was a local  artist named Robert Toth. I looked him up and we soon became friends.

Robert is a gentle, intelligent man who’s very talented. His projects have included series of portrait busts of great classical musicians, famous politicians throughout American history as well as Hot Rod and motorcycle art. Robert was the one who told me I should start getting my work out to shows. He mentioned a car show that happened every year in northern New Jersey called Lead East. I found out that this show was put on by a promoter named Terry Cook. I called him up and asked about getting a space at the next event.

Venus on Wheels

Posted in Balderdash and Bronze Casting - One Man's Life in the Arts on June 14, 2011 by bernardcorman

While my client had asked me to sculpt a ‘57 Chevy for him, I had a standing policy not to sculpt that particular car because of what I perceived as extreme overexposure. It was such an iconic car and so reproduced artistically that I didn’t care to add my version to the pile. Also I had started thinking that a big American car should have a big, fat ass attached to it. I was attracted to Buicks from the ’50s at the time and settled on the 1955 model year to be the front part of the piece.

Since I was thinking about sculpting an overweight person, I started looking at the idea of having someone model for me. Through a woman who was caring for my kids during the day, I was acquainted with a single mom who had the body type I was looking for. I discreetly asked her if she would be interested in modeling for me. She was flattered by the request and agreed. Since her house was on my way home from the Atelier, I started stopping at her place and having her pose for me in the evenings.

Chalk it up to my general iconoclastic attitude that I would

Big Ass Buick

create something that was in complete opposition to what my client had requested. He was taken aback by what I had made but accepted it in good grace. Later that year in one of my earliest appearances at the sprawling antique automotive market that happens every fall in Hershey Pennsylvania, I had the new piece on display. A big tall guy was particularly taken by this piece. He kept stroking the rear end. Finally he looked up and said in his fine Texas drawl, “Man, that’s a big ass Buick!”  I almost fell over laughing and decided on the spot that that would be the title. I’ve been calling it that ever since and it’s proven to be one my most popular pieces.

Mysterious Machinery (Part 2)

Posted in Balderdash and Bronze Casting - One Man's Life in the Arts on June 1, 2011 by bernardcorman

I love cut away drawings and I thought it would be cool to do a cut-away sculpture. Using an illustration from a car repair textbook from the ’60s, I sculpted a very small but highly detailed engine and put it into the body of a 1959 Oldsmobile, a car I admired. I had a connection to a guy named John Hildebran up in Maine that I had met during my time there.  John ran a small foundry that cast stainless steel.

Cut-Away Oldsmobile (engine detail cast in stainless steel)

I sent him a number of the engine waxes to be cast in stainless. I cast the bodies of the cars in bronze at the Atelier.

In one of the magazines I had bought to work on the motorcycle piece, there were some cool cut-away drawings of motorcycle engines. I made some intricate line drawings from some of these pictures and thought it would be fun to make some T-shirts with these. Somehow I ended up at a small, local bike show with the shirts and some of my small bronzes. One of the people there was taken by my work, especially the piece that was the Caddy front end melded to my wife’s ass. He liked it but wanted to know if I could make it bigger, and use a ‘57 Chevy instead of the Caddoo. I said sure.