Vortex of visual Texas poetry

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Vortex of visual Texas poetry

Local sculptor gets caught up in the whirlwind

11:23 PM CDT on Saturday, September 27, 2008

By Lucinda Breeding / Features Editor

November Devil looks like a natural coincidence, a simple act of God frozen in a bronze tornado.

In truth, Denton sculptor David Iles went through a painstaking process to produce the sculpture, which stands just under 10 feet. The sculpture will sit on a painted cylindrical steel base. It took a lot of deliberation to cast live leaves, branches, twigs and nuts to make November Devil look like a weightless dust devil of leaves, branches and acorns.

Sanger sculptor David Iles, center, his son and assistant Martin Iles, left, and assistant Vincent Villafranca stand with November Devil, a 10-foot sculpture of a dust devil that has picked up native Denton branches, leaves and twigs. November Devil is the city’s latest public art commission. The tornado of metal leaves, branches, nuts and twigs will be unveiled on the downtown Denton Square on Thursday.

 The sculpture is the third work commissioned by the city’s public art committee. It follows a brick mural by Paula Blincoe Collins depicting residents and icons of Denton’s Quakertown, a black neighborhood that was forced to relocate so the city could have a public park and civic center. The mural is in the lobby of Denton Civic Center at 321 E. McKinney St.

It also follows a bronze sculpture by Denton artist George Cadell that depicts the city’s history from prairie to collegiate-commercial complex, located outside City Hall East, at 601 E. Hickory St.

November Devil is a tribute to the unpredictable nature of North Texas, a nod to Denton County’s past when the landscape was dusty prairie lined with a stubborn strip of Cross Timbers. Iles’ piece is just as easily a metaphor for present-day Denton, a place that’s changing fast, blurring then and now together in an exciting, slightly scary mix.

Iles, a native Texan, said the piece was inspired by something he saw as a child.

“When I was a kid, my grandmother and my family lived next door to each other, and was also catty-corner to an aunt,” Iles said. “My aunt lived across the street from the Catholic church. We kind of lived in a little block. Well, my cousin Edwin had a friend, Ben Holmes, and old Ben had been raking leaves all day. I was 6 or 8 at the time, and I was walking down the street. This win came along and picked up the entire pile of leaves and stuff old Ben had spent all day raking up. It picked the whole thing up and blew it across the road and set the whole pile down in the church lot. I never found out, but I always wondered if Ben got in trouble for that.

“But that stayed in my mind, all those years, that dust devil of leaves getting picked up by the wind and getting set down across the street,” Iles said.

Iles said his muse was also the autumn foliage on the historic downtown Square. He’d use live leaves, branches, fruits, nuts and seeds from Denton tree. Iles used between 10 and 20 different types of native leaves and a half dozen nuts, fruits and seeds.

Iles and his assistants, son and artist Martin Iles and artist Vincent Villafranca, used live branches and leaves — 400 to 500 leaves, actually. They brushed the live objects with wax and coated them with a silicone shell that formed the texture of the branches and leaves, then burned out the sticks and leaves. They then poured melted bronze into the mold. The bronze cooled and came out of the mold.

The results were pieces that looked so real that a casual viewer might have mistaken the pieces for branches and leaves painted with a metallic veneer.

“The individual pieces came out and it weighs 40 to 50 pounds. When the sprue [the waste part of a bronze casting] gets cut off, it weighs about 17 pounds,” David Iles said.

Then came the construction. Iles and his assistants set to work creating the tornado, a 350-pound sculpture that has to appear weightless. The branches and leaves were welded together. Iles was so intent on creating an illusion that he sculpted some leaves that will cover the bolts that fix the sculpture to its base.

Iles said success in a sculpture is a mix of things, how much the sculpture conforms to his original vision and the energy between the finished piece and its viewers.

“I tend to be one of these people that I like to let things go and change things as they need to. If it looks exactly like the drawings, then there probably wasn’t much reason to go beyond the drawing. The point is to bring the vision to life,” Iles said.

Iles’ piece will be dedicated Thursday on the Square.

The artist said his highest hope is for the sculpture to catch people off guard, to pull them in and study it.

“I think about what a piece will look like from a distance. … I want enough to be going on that they have to be looking. Even driving by it, you’ll be able to see 270 degrees of the sculpture,” Iles said.

“The biggest disappointment for me is if someone walks by and looks at it and walks on by. That means they aren’t interested. I want people to be interested.”


Full article at: http://www.dentonrc.com/sharedcontent/dws/drc/entertainment/stories/DRC_Iles_0928.bbe1b6bc.html


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