The theme JOY OF EFFORT
is universal in that it expresses the absolute necessity of investing honest effort in order to attain any valid and lasting achievement and fulfilment.
The sculpture is unique not only because it is a novel artistic pose but also because unusual materials are employed. It expresses both rapturous delight and sculptural possibilities.
The sculpture is made of a special reinforced concrete called Fondu with a strength of 8,000 psi. It is eight feet high and weighs approximately 500 pounds.
Because of the extreme technical difficulties involved, not many attempts have been made to capture a high jumper in flight. The challenge was increased by my decision to use durable rock-like materials which resist corrosion, erosion, heat, and temperatures far below freezing. Concrete met these requirements but the eccentric location of the centre of gravity, the weight of such dense material, and the high degree of tension, especially at the most fragile points, presented dilemmas.
I thought I could solve the problem by using ferrocement in the legs. But the ferrocement did not harden within the plaster moulds due to the low temperature (about 32 degrees Fahrenheit) in my studio shed. Several electric heaters could not raise the temperature in the heavy moulds and after weeks the cement still refused to harden.
The technical personnel of the cement companies were unable to advise me since they had no experience with such casting conditions. The electric heaters were working continuously for days and nights for the sole benefit of the hydroelectric company. Finally I was forced to remove the moulds, damaging them badly, and then remove all the ferrocement by scraping and scrubbing it out of the cast. I then decided to use highly reinforced black fondu cement. This material hardened satisfactorily.
Another problem was sealing the porous cement in order to avoid penetration of moisture. Water particles, after freezing, expand and burst the pores of the surface one at a time. And so throughout the years micro pores increase to macro pores causing visible cavities which in turn loosen the structure of the sculpture. Although it is possible to seal sculptures this can only be done temporarily. The sealing therefore has to be repeated.
To have a high jumper pose in midair is impossible. The lack of video equipment to record an exact position in the jump made even a two-dimensional representation impossible. Two hired photographers tried to capture the flight but the photographs proved to be inadequate.
So I went out into the field to study, sketch and memorize as many high jumps as I could. Here I must mention the remarkable cooperation of a Canadian national high jumper. Without his technical advice and patience, even when posing in a cage of plastic sheets with an electric heater which succeeded in raising the temperature in the studio-shed only a few degrees, the work would not have been accomplished.
Matters were further complicated by the inadequate space within the studio shed. It was ten feet long by ten feet wide, narrowing at the end to five feet. In order to gain perspective the sculptor has to distance himself as much as possible from the object to check the proportions, the composition, and the overall impression. For JOY OF EFFORT that distance was reduced to five feet for an object which was eight feet high. In addition, the ceiling of the shed was too low and a portion of it had to be raised to accommodate the uplifted arm of the sculpture.
There is also a limit to the amount of time any top athlete can spend away from training. Fortunately for me the Canadian national high jumper I mentioned above was not in training at the time due to a sprained ankle.
Many believe that for artistic and psychological reasons one should capture motion either at its beginning or at its end. For instance, to realize the singleness of purpose of a movement, a dancer should not be represented in the middle of a movement but rather at the end. So it is with a high jumper. This opinion may be based on the belief that only the achievement of a goal can bring full satisfaction to the observer.
Art depends on mastered difficulty. A conscientious artist always struggles with the portrayal of her or his images and ideas.
Nevertheless, I was still intent on capturing a high jumper in flight for JOY OF EFFORT
. I needed a base that was supportive yet somewhat formless and pointed upward to emphasize the direction of movement and create the impression of flying.
If this sculpture were cast in bronze then the base could be much reduced and it would be possible to support only the left foot while the right foot could be suspended in the air. A bronze cast would be a good solution to this problem and the sculpture could be placed outdoors.
Plastics like epoxy could have been employed, but the production cost would have been far beyond my financial means. In spite of many efforts I made, public help was impossible to attain.
It would be an advantage to place the sculpture indoors. This would facilitate maintenance and professional checkups to repair or remove cracks, holes, build-up of microbiological flora, algae, fungus, pollution, and sealer, all of which obstruct the sculpture's details over the years.
Further, the somewhat restricted size of the sculpture would make it appear too small outside in a vast open area where two and a half times life size would be appropriate. If the sculpture were to be displayed inside, there should be a high ceiling with overhead light from a skylight or, if need be, from artificial lighting.