Category Archives: civablog

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Inside Roger Feldman’s “Threshold”

In 2013, Laity Lodge, nestled along the Frio River in Texas’s Hill Country, commissioned Seattle artist Roger Feldman to construct a permanent, site-specific art installation, the culmination of months of planning and years of dreaming of such a project. The installation, titled Threshold, consists of three interconnected chiseled limestone monoliths, some towering up to 15 feet high, and was documented in an eight-minute film, Syncopated, by Nathan Clarke. An accompanying shorter film provides further artist insights; yet, for those of us who enjoy the insider’s details, a follow-up conversation on getting from here to there was in order. What follows is a behind-the-scenes look at Feldman’s process—in his own words—of getting from sketch to maquette to completed construction.

feldman-3Like many other artists, I keep sketchbooks. Mine are combinations of thoughts, notes, cool phrases, imaginative and conceptual sketches, etc. I collect fragments, including interesting ideas from books, conversations, and even sermons. I draw during church services; this helps me process the content. It is from these ideas that maquettes emerge.

feldman-2Maquette is a French word derived from the Italian word for sketch, macchietta. When a 2-D sketch catches my attention, I move to working with small mat board maquettes (3-D scale models), at approximately 4 x 4 x 4 inches in scale.  I usually complete six to eight maquettes of a concept, adjusting various proportions until I land on two ideas to pursue on a larger scale. These larger pieces are often in the range of 10 x 10 x 10 inches constructed out of foam core. In the process, I determine the appropriate scale for my work—usually a quarter, three-eighths, or half-inch scale. After these are refined, I move on to building the piece full scale. Sometimes I spend even more time and do a thorough maquette out of wood, which then becomes the basis for the finished piece.

In the case of the Threshold project, after receiving the invitation to develop maquettes and move forward with the project, I began dreaming about possibilities. As I left Laity after attending a conference, one staff member proposed the idea of doing something on the Trinity. Realizing I’d never done anything specifically about the Trinity before, I considered how I might address the concept of three in one, which led to creating small maquettes with three components intersecting to make a larger structure.

Construction drawings and a working maquette:
Semi-circular walls have been part of my visual vocabulary since the mid-1980s, so I began with the semi-circular walls. That led to developing a tower that could be entered, and the whole notion of an individual experience coupled with a communal experience became central to the piece.  Of seven fully developed maquettes, the selected design features two semi-circular walls and a tower. In an effort to achieve internal mathematical harmony, all components contain diameters which are multiples of three: a six-foot diameter (15’ tall) tower, a 15-foot diameter wall, and a 12-foot diameter wall for a community bench.

The site
Usually, I have a site in mind for the piece, whether a gallery or an outdoor location.  For an interior space, I try to visit the site to gather dimensions and create a scale model of the gallery and then place the maquettes in the space to visualize how they will look full-scale. If the piece is an outdoor installation, and I can’t get there before construction begins, I bring the maquette on the plane with me, even resorting to custom-designing foam core boxes to protect the maquettes for their stowage under my seat. (One time, for an installation in Austria, I spent my first afternoon on site painstakingly re-gluing a maquette that I’d dissembled for the trip.) Once on site, I place the maquette in the landscape to determine the best position in the space before beginning construction.

Final Construction
feldman-1I take my measurements off the maquette with a ruler that I construct out of mat board for each particular piece and write dimensions directly on the foam core maquette, numbering the walls or forms as I go. With this accurate information, as I lay out walls and components for the piece, I plan distances between walls or barriers and replicate the maquette at full scale. Then construction begins. For the Threshold installation, I incorporated a symbolic arrangement of space and forms facing east, almost in a parallel line with the city of Jerusalem. A lone window in the tower faces south, and light travels in toward a single seat in the tower during the day and, at various times of year, rests directly on the seat. My intent was to create an internally harmonious work that symbolizes the ethos of the Laity Lodge, resulting in a form that is organic, yet geometric, inviting, safe, interactive and communal—a haven for spiritual exploration and contemplation.

Roger Feldman received his B.A. from the University of Washington and his M.F.A. in Sculpture at Claremont Graduate University in Southern California. His installations have been exhibited since the late 1970’s, and he received an Individual Artist NEA Fellowship in 1986. His site-specific installations and maquettes have been exhibited in six countries and throughout the United States, with permanent site-specific installations in Scotland, Canada, Texas, and Washington State.

Making a Little Joy

By Meaghan Ritchey Shared resources, mutual support, and creative camaraderie lie at the heart of any dynamic artistic collaboration. At a three-day retreat at BARN ON THE POND in Saugeteries, New York, the inaugural event presented by the ladies of Little Joy, these values will be near enough to taste. A bit about the group: Little… Continue Reading

God took dirt . . .

By Ruth Anne Reese According to the Christian tradition, at the beginning of time, God took dirt and formed it into a human being and placed that human creature in the garden God had made – a place where God and humanity would meet and share in intimate relationship (Gen. 2). God shared his own… Continue Reading

Studies in Theology and the Arts

An Interview with David McNutt CIVA: To get started, tell us more about the new series that you are editing for InterVarsity Academic. What’s the big picture? What does or will this new project entail? David: Our vision for the Studies in Theology and the Arts (STA) series is to provide academic-level books that will… Continue Reading

The Afterlife of Objects and Places

By Michelle Westmark Wingard I have always been fascinated by places and objects that bear a history that can no longer be physically seen. I suppose this is the same nostalgia that drew me to photography in the first place. A photograph by its very nature is an object that serves as two-dimensional evidence of… Continue Reading

Making Better Work

An Interview with Brenton Good In partnership with CIVA, the IFAF|International Fine Art Fund is hosting a series of video interviews with Christians in the arts whose work is featured in current art openings, book publications, and other venues. The first of these interviews is with CIVA member Brenton Good, artist and Assistant Professor and… Continue Reading

Making New Things New Again

By David J. P. Hooker This summer I was privileged to be selected as the Dunhuang Ceramic Artist in Residence in China’s Gansu province. This two-month-long artist residency is based at Lanzhou City University, which houses the only college-level ceramic arts program in the entire province (pretty staggering, considering Gansu is slightly bigger than California).… Continue Reading

Artful Theology in the Making

Maria Fee Three young and beautifully turbaned African American women sit center stage. They mirror in their demeanor, placement, and clothing the heavenly beings depicted in Andrei Rublev’s 1425 icon of the Trinity. The women’s message derives from Dannielle Carr’s thesis Where Were You? An Exploration of the Presence of God—a literary project which follows… Continue Reading

Making Space and Making Place

By Eva Ting Four years ago, Redeemer Presbyterian Church opened its doors for the first time to its very own building, with the vision of providing not just a worship space for the congregants but also a gathering place for the community at-large in New York City. Space is a precious commodity, especially in a… Continue Reading

Making Psalms

By Nicora Gangi My only objective is to paint a Christ so moving that those who see him will be converted. —George Rouault A God who lets us prove his existence would be an idol. —Dietrich Bonhoeffer Pondering the weighty parameters suggested above, I embark on the task of creating Scripture-inspired collages with no small… Continue Reading