FIBERGLASS BEASTS OF THE WISCONSIN WILD

Phillip Barcio, HYPERALLERGIC, July 1, 2018

shing touches are being put on the most ambitious sculpture FAST has ever fabricated for Lipski: a two-and-a-half-story-tall Dalmatian puppy titled “Spot” (2018). Destined for New York City, “Spot” will live outside of the Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, and will balance an actual Prius New York Taxi Cab on its nose.Using “Spot” as an example, Darren walks me through the entire process by which a fiberglass sculpture manifests. “Spot” started with a 3-D computer drawing. From that drawing, a scale model was mill-cut. As he shows me the model, I ask Darren about the hand-painted board decorated with whimsical Dalmatian spots leaning behind it.

 

“Donald painted that,” Darren says, “to show us how the spots should be painted on.”

 

“So that’s an original Lipski painting,” I say.

 

Darren smiles. “I guess it is.”

 

From that small-scale model, FAST Corp’s lead artist Rob Kneifl replicated a precise, full-sized, version of “Spot” out of styrofoam. That massive styrofoam puppy was then sprayed with a mix of resin and shredded fiberglass. The resulting fiberglass shell was then sliced away in parts from the styrofoam, creating a mold that could later be reassembled. That mold was then sprayed on the inside with more fiberglass, creating a product suitable for finishing.

 

Dean Weber, one of FAST’s directors, brings me a face mask, and we head out to the sanding bay, where the two-and-a-half-story-tall Dalmatian puppy now sits cut in half. Team members are busy sanding it down smooth. “Once the surface is perfect,” Dean explains, “it’ll go to the painting bay.”

 

“Is anything being painted today?” I ask.

 

“Let’s see.” We walk towards the painting bay, across a lawn strewn with Santa Claus, one stray Bucky, a giant frog, and a smiling bear sitting on a bench. I pause in front of two odd-looking safari animals — a rhino and an elephant, with holes where their tails, ears, and the elephant’s trunk should be. Evidently, this is an emerging niche of the fiberglass sculpture business. On rare occasions it becomes necessary to conduct an ethical hunt on African elephants or rhinos. The animals are completely consumed or otherwise put to use by the local population, except for the tails, ears, and trunk. Those parts are sent to a taxidermist, who combines them with fiberglass replica animals, suitable for display.

When we arrive at the painting bay, the garage door to the first bay is open. Inside is an enormous tropical fish slide. Its bright, flamboyant colors are a feast for my eyes. Busy painting the fish is Eugene Ortize. I watch as he adds nuanced details to its surface, employing a blend of methods, from careful brushwork to the expert handling of a variety of airbrush tools. His technique is at the highest level. I ask Ortize where he attended art school. He tells me he is self-taught.

 

From the bay next door I hear metal music blaring. Inside, I meet Max Muraski. He is painting another of Tony Tasset’s “Mood Sculptures.” Instead of five, this one has seven heads. The sculpture is destined for Randall’s Island, for installation outside the entrance of Frieze New York 2018.

 

From behind his double barrel ventilation mask, Muraski says he is almost finished — just a few heads to go. As I watch him work, I am entranced by the purity of color Muraski has coaxed from his paints, and the intensely high gloss sheen he has imparted onto the sculpture’s surface.

 

I came here to learn how public sculptures get made. What I found was so much more. The grace of these painters’ gestures; the confidence of these artisans’ techniques; the absolute authority which these object makers conduct their craft: this is why artists like Tasset, Lipski, and Oppenheim trust Kneifl, Ortize, Muraski, and everyone else here at FAST. They are the perfect collaborators — true artists, even if they would never presume to use that word themselves.

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