- 48 x 16 x 14 inches
Athletes inspire us because they push themselves to the graceful edge of the possibilities for what our bodies and minds can accomplish with work and focus. I was just a girl when Nadia Comăneci began making headlines: Oh, how my friends and I admired her!
The Gymnast shown here is carved from Colorado Yule Marble, inspired by striving to be graceful and strong. The base, however, was inspired by the obelisks in the Palazzo Pitti and the Piazza Santa Maria Novella in Firenze, Italia [Florence, Italy]. Those obelisks of stone are supported by four bronze turtles, one under each corner of the stone. With the limitations of marble and wanting to play a little, I chose instead to create the body of a large land tortoise (a symbol of the world since ancient times) with four heads of sea turtles, again, one in each corner.
This piece was a challenge to carve because I wanted the light to pass into the space between her torso and her legs. I had to carve around her arms. And carve the face to match up on both sides even while I often could not see much of what I was doing!
I love this Gymnast and hope that she finds a good home. More views and some carving images are shown below.
Payment plans accepted on all of my works, no finance charge. You set the date and the amount each month that you would like to pay. One-third of the price [regardless of when that balance is reached] becomes the non-refundable deposit. [However, in the event that you change your mind or situation, this deposit may be applied towards other Borsheim Art works. Please contact me, if this one-of-a-kind marble sculpture interests you.
Thank you for viewing, "Liking" [see bottom of this page], and even sharing this page with others.
All the best,
Kelly Borsheim, sculptor
P.S. If you would like to see the figurative sculpture carved from the piece of marble cut by the quarry above the head of the Gymnast, visit Back to Back.
The Creation of the Marble Gymnast Contemporary Art Sculpture:
Many years ago, I had an idea . . . yup, just one ;-) It began back in 2003 or 2004. I created a maquette (French word for a small sculpture that will be used to create a larger one, bozzetto in Italian) in plastilina of a gymnast in a pike position. I needed to make it so that I could calculate what cut of marble I needed. I had been itching to work larger for a while now.
I then contacted the Yule quarry in Colorado and ordered my marble. I had them cut out a block of stone above the gymnast’s head to save me the effort, but more importantly to save the stone for another project [which became Back to Back, a carving of two torsos]. Until I can get enough of the proper tools (for example, a diamond-bladed chainsaw), it is best to out-lab these kinds of things. The idea for this sculpture is a symmetrical vertical composition, with a bit of asymmetry in the feet for a fun element (the way no proper gymnast would pose).
Jump to November 2009:
After cutting away some of the block, I had to redraw my design. I am a direct carver. That means that I do not make a large sculpture out of plaster, clay, or wax and then measure and copy it into a block of stone.
Instead, I draw directly on the stone and cut what I do not wish to have there. Yes, I have my maquette (small sculpture in clay), but that is only a tool to help me determine my basic proportions. Soon, I will abandon it and work only with the stone.
Gymnast Marble Carving: December 2010:
Progress . . . It was important to me to create an airspace between the torso and the legs. The light falling in and around the stone is so very different than light surrounding a solid form. I had not carved something this complicated before. Even my marble Stargazer was not quite as difficult as this sculpture. Here, I had to carve a face that I really could not see or access easily, and try to shape a torso and thighs that I could hardly reach with my hand, much less any carving tool.
Gymnast Marble Carving: March 2011
Digging deeper, searching for the response of AWE . . .
“How did you do that?” is one question that seems to define the word “awe” for me. That is the one of the reasons I cannot seem to make a simple design in my sculpture – the attempt to make you (and me) feel awe. But I know that I also do it for the light. Mainly here, I am speaking about undercuts. I get frustrated enough because I am a slow producer, but then in the course of doing the work, I always seem to want to push myself to tackle a new challenge.
So, in my current marble carving project, the Gymnast, I thought creating a face that I can hardly reach was bad enough. Today, I took a masonry bit and drilled through the stone to create a space between the upper body and the vertical thighs. The Gymnast is in a tight pike position, with her toes pointed to the heavens.
I cannot tell you how wonderful it feels to drill from one end of the stone to the other and have the drill bit emerge on the other side … in the intended position! Twice even – once over the breasts but under the arms and the second hole was created below the breast line. This seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes it is easier to measure the angle of the drill when one is not right on top of it. It is helpful to have someone else around on occasion to act as an extra eye or hand, but I had no company today and I wanted to get on with it.
After I created the first two holes, I then changed to one of my new favorite tools – a double cut carbide tip on a 6” shaft. As seen here in the photos, I used it to go in from the top between the arms to start to connect holes and open up the space a little bit. I tend to stand back from the piece often to check my proportions and line. At some point, I drew in a line for the bird’s eye view of the breasts, keeping the line further out than I really want to cut. I can refine the line later, but I will never be able to retrieve cut stone.
In the above image, I am looking over the left shoulder of the Gymnast and down into the small opening of her folded-up form. Really, what was I thinking?
My goal was to finish this marble sculpture before I returned to Italy in May, but I would be surprised if I can pull that off. Still, it is good to have goals.
Gymnast Marble Carving: May 6, 2011:
Time to move the supports in so that the base can be cut down to size. I know when it is time to do this when I realize that I can no longer visualize cutting more stone from the figure because some part of my brain does not like the disproportion of the too huge base. Everything is relative. The other thing is that my training has taught me to work the whole piece. Stone carving has its own considerations, but I still combine my overall process with the techniques I use for each medium that I work with.
[I never made it to Italy until the end of the year 2011 because of my divorce that technically started in March that year. I spent most of the summer and fall of 2011 in Texas helping my pregnant sister while writing my book, and finishing up the Gymnast before I lost my home and studio that November.]
Self-Portrait (with timer) by Kelly Borsheim, raising stone to work on lower parts
Gymnast Marble Carving: June 20, 2011:
Here you may see that I have begun to shape the base. Now, I have the proportions of the marble sculpture more in line with all the parts. There will be a lot of refining of the figure's form as the base is being carved. Unfortunately, I have spent much of May and June away from my studio. Combine that with the abnormally (too soon) hot and drought situation weather, when I am home, I only work about two hours in the morning and two in the dusky evening. I have no way of moving this stone alone. I could erect a tarp over my work area, but in truth, the direct sun gives me a valid reason to get many other things done that are necessary at this time, including writing my first book. So, I am happy to get about four hours of carving in per day, when possible. Stay tuned on my blog for more frequent postings. artbyborsheim.blogspot.com
Gymnast Marble Carving: July 15, 2011:
By mid-July, the drought (and the heat) in central Texas was getting worse and I was beginning to worry if I could finish by November. I took out my chisels and really enjoyed creating this texture for the shell of the four-headed tortoise (right). I thought that the repetitiveness would bore me at some point, but I found myself enchanted as each part of the marble fell away, revealing its crystalline structure. Read more here:
Why Carve a Four-headed Tortoise / Turtle?
Art is not just expression; it is also problem-solving. And surprisingly, some solutions come with perfect meanings and make me wonder who really is directing one's art? Originally (2002-2003?), I had envisioned a sphere holding up the gymnast. However, in stone that is not practical, at least not with the sphere as I had imagined it. The connection point from sphere to body would have been too weak from too little marble. (It was wonderful being married to a mechanical engineer who taught me things about structure strength that I never thought to ask about. I am much smarter now!) I toyed a while with something more literal, such as a balance beam with half a sphere. But not only did it have a similar problem, but I found myself bored with too much realism.
Thoughts of Florence, Italy, are not often far from my mind and at some point I realized that my memory of the obelisk in the garden of the Palazzo Pitti was returning for a reason: at the base of the Egyptian form were four bronze turtles, one holding up each corner of the long and heavy stone.
However, stone is a different material and I chose instead to create four heads with one large shell. I also combined the anatomies of tortoise and sea turtle. I decided that this was more fun and fit well with the fantasy in my head and in my marble. After my friend Lana Thompson died several years ago, her husband Joe Mole offered me some of her many books. I chose several books on ancient cultures and symbolism, and read in the following:
From "The Complete Dictionary of Symbols" Jack Tresidder, General Editor:
Strength, patience, endurance, stability, slowness, fecundity, longevity. The tortoise or turtle (members of the same reptile group) is an important and ancient symbol of cosmic order in many traditions, especially those of China. Stone tortoises supporting the pillars of imperial graves allude to the legendary Ao who supported the world on its four legs. Associated with the north, water and winter, the animal also appeared on imperial banners as the Black Warrior. It was protective against fire as well as in war. In Japan, it supported the world mountain, and the marine turtle was the emblem of Kumpira, god of sailors - as it was of Ea, the Sumerian-Semitic Lord of the Deep. With a domed shell on its back and the squarer shell protecting its belly, the tortoise or turtle was widely used as a tripartite cosmic image of the vaulted heaven, the body (humankind) and the earth, underworld, or waters. In India, the symbolism of stability was emphasized by the notion that an elephant supported the world by standing on the legs of the cosmic turtle. Alternatively, the cosmic tree is shown growing from the turtle Kurma, which is an avatar of the sustainer god Vishnu. Creator hero symbolism appears again in Native American mythology where the turtle lifts the earth from the deep.
Although mainly a female, lunar and water symbol, the tortoise is linked both with female and male fertility, as in parts of Africa where the emerging head is seen as penile. As protective emblems, tortoises are popular household pets there.
Western symbolism is less extensive, best summed up in the Festina lente ("Make haste slowly") emblem of Cosimo de' Medici - a turtle with a sail on its back, voyaging slowly but surely. In alchemy, the tortoise symbolizes matter at the beginning of the evolutionary process.
Gymnast Marble Carving: August 19, 2011:
Recently, someone abandoned this little kitten near my home. I am not sure how long she was living in my carport before I noticed her. I have a lot of critters that live around here and that I feed. Only this one was not wild. My soon-to-be ex-husband John came home for a visit one weekend and asked me to start feeding her. Knowing that I would not be living here before the year was out meant that he was willing to keep her after I had gone. I named her "Cat" following the example of Audrey Hepburn playing Holly Golightly in the film "Breakfast at Tiffany's." At one point Holly exclaims, "I'm not Holly. I'm not Lulamae either. I don't know who I am. I'm like Cat here. We're a couple of no-name slobs. We belong to nobody and nobody belongs to us. We don't even belong to each other."
Gymnast Marble Carving: 28 September, 2011:
I suppose not unlike in the film, Cat and I became friends. Despite being a Leo, I am not really a cat person. I know that is a horrible thing for a cat lover to hear, but . . . However, Cat seems like no other cat that I have met in that she is consistently affectionate! I think that she must have felt that she won the Lottery after having been abandoned. How cruel people can be! So, at least for the remainder of my time in Texas, I was happy to have such a loving companion. I miss my dog Zac (d. 2002), but my life has been too much in limbo for too long to afford me any kind of responsibility as having another companion.
[Update September 2018: Cat is still called Cat. She found a good home with John and he adores her to this day.]
photo by Jayne Seiler [my mother, 28 September 2011]
Gymnast Marble Carving: 30 October 2011:
The light is changing again as we move into the fall. The sun lies lower in the southern skies and makes unusual patterns through the trees near my worksite. I find shadows often intriguing, the way I am beguiled by the clouds in the sky. So many patterns, so many thoughts . . . the Gymnast is developing beautifully.
Transporting the Marble Sculpture Gymnast:
13 November 2011: And the day came to move the stone . . .
In the following images, John Borsheim and Philip Hoggatt use a chain hoist to lift my heavy marble sculpture. Note that the thick straps are put directly on the sculpture, securing a good fit with the stone itself. There are two sections that are strapped since the sculpture will be tilted on her side for transport. The black blanket that you see in the image has the sole function of protecting the marble from being scratched by the chain and is not wrapped around the sculpture. One would NEVER lift a heavy sculpture wrapped inside a blanket! The fabric will no doubt shift during takeoff and the sculpture, not being directly held, will fall to the ground. It is for this reason that the wide, flat straps used to transport finished works of art are used ONLY for that ~ keeping them clean is another trick for not scratching the art.
It is important to have almost constant communication when moving something precious and heavy. Safety for the people and for the art is the primary concern.
After the marble Gymnast was safely loaded into Philip's truck and packed for protection against vibration, John's work was done. I followed Philip to his place, Carved Stone, so we could install three of my stone works into the sculpture garden there. My stone sculptures will be on exhibit at least through the annual Sculpture Challenge each March.
After stopping in Austin, Texas, for a much needed lunch break, we arrived in Dripping Springs. I must say that it was fun operating a forklift! I only did the lifting part, leaving the precision work to Phil, who has tons of experience moving large stone, and working his equipment. I got to guide Gymnast as we moved her forward, keeping her from swaying about too much. The following images were taken on my camera by Michelle Hoggatt.
Kelly Borsheim in Dripping Springs, Texas, with her Gymnast
and Stargazer marble carvings. Nov. 2011
The Gymnast is currently on exhibit and for sale at The Palms of Sanford, Florida, not far from Orlando. Please inquire if you would like to see her in person.
Thank you for your interest in my work!
Kelly Borsheim, sculptor