Fluke Progress

whale tail-texture1

Ene applies a scratch coat of plaster to a section of our Fluke sculpture

We’ve begun to apply a surface texture to the foam sections comprising our Fluke Project, featuring a life-size sculptural interpretation of a humpback whale tail, to be cast in bronze and permanently installed at the NOAA Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center in Santa Cruz. The foam sections were cut to full scale by CNC routers from a 3D scan of my 1/6 scale model, which I had carved in wood. Once each section has been textured, we will join them together to texture the seams before a final disassembly to make molds for casting in bronze.

whale tail-texture2

The foam sections will be textured separately then joined together to align the seams.

whale tail-texture4

Detail of a sample surface texture in plaster

I’ve been experimenting with how to make a texture reminiscent of whale skin that is smooth enough to the touch, but rough enough to make a seamless visual transition when the individual, cast sections are welded together in bronze. In reality, a whale’s skin is variably rough and smooth, hairy in places, with barnacles, scars and tears, but where it is smooth it has a finely undulating surface not unlike a pool of deep water with subsurface, undulating currents. I’ve found I can approximate the randomly bumpy smoothness by spraying the thin coat of plaster with compressed air as it sets up. I can also embed tacks and other obstructions to replicate barnacles, removing some to leave rough patches. As the plaster continues to set, it can be variously burnished, splattered and combed with fine brushes, depending upon the form’s analagous action in the water.

“There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seems to speak of some hidden soul beneath.” (from Moby Dick)

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