Thursday, September 18, 2014

Steel sculpture decisions - the magpie response

I chose to use to use sheets of #304 stainless steel alloy for my sculptures at the Electra C. Doren library. This is a steel you and I see everyday in auto trim, outdoor electrical enclosures, storage tanks, and other items you pass each day without thinking; "I wonder what that's made of?" This metal is designed for outdoor use. It will not easily rust or corrode. It is the same alloy used in the Gateway Arch in St. Louis

Photo Credit: Gateway arch
2001 Rick Dikeman
I want to use the steel in the raw state with a brushed surface. The steel will start off a shiny silver and patina over time into a deep earthy metallic gray-silver. Once the patina has settled the sculptures will be stable for many, many years. The sculptures will not require significant maintenance in this raw state. Periodic cleaning will not negatively impact them. 

I had to be practical about durability, weight, and costs. I selected steel sheets of 1/8 of an inch thick. This will be solid enough for durability and inflexible enough for fencing. At this size it won't burden the structure with weight. A panel two and a half feet by four feet will weigh approximately 57 pounds before it is cut. Given that the pattern of each panel will be different, their weights will be different. I approximate that the finished panels will weigh between 30 and 40 pounds each. This should be fine for incorporation into the fence sections. 

Aesthetically I want the sculptures to be noticeable and cause people to have the magpie response; "Oooh look - shiny metal!" and be compelled to take a closer look. It is possible to paint the metal or to apply typical fencing coatings, but I would rather not. I believe that the raw steel is the appropriate aesthetic fitting with the industrial Dayton theme. I want there to be a contrast between the fence, the environment of the terrace, the surroundings, and the piece itself.  I want it to have distinguishable boundaries and not be seen as an extension of the fence, but rather that the fence is a frame for the sculpture. 

I will work with the architects and the fence installers to see the materials that will be used for the walls, pavers, and fencing to see if the raw steel will work aesthetically with the surroundings. 

After discussing options with my friend, master sculptor Jim Mills of Sculpturecast, if raw steel does not work aesthetically with the other elements we can reduce the painting maintenance by using Imron paint by DuPont which is the same paint used on jet planes and will last without re-coating for 20+ years. Or we can choose one of the fence coatings that has similar durability. Ordinary exterior house paint will also work but that is not a good option since it would need to be repainted more frequently.

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