From concept to creation, Master sculptor, Vic McCallum of Highlander Studio, was commissioned to envision a multi-piece installation that would complement the landscape of the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center (GEHC), prominently featuring former Gwinnett County Commission Chairman, Wayne Hill, and the future youth of the region. Known for being a direct and influential individual, whose vision helped to make the GEHC a reality, the installation serves to commemorate Mr. Hill’s commitment to save green space and improve water quality, both of which are vital to the superior life, necessary for a thriving community.
According to Vic,
“the art piece installation is a reminder to continue focusing on the Earth and the process of discovery. That passion and wonder is something that needs to be passed on to the next generation, and so this art inspires that curiosity, something that may be lost over time, as we are less in touch with people and the world around us. Life passes by so quickly and everyone seems to be in such a hurry to get to the next thing, and the next thing after that. We sometimes bury our heads in technology and miss the beauty around us. It is time to slow down and value the presence of nature and other people in our lives.
Originally, Vic designed the concept form of the idea that he had for the outdoor space by creating a charcoal original drawing, presented to the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Foundation. From there, Mr. Hill was involved by spending time with Vic and myself to prepare for his likeness to be transferred into a clay original and then passed along to a finished bronze rendition.
Throughout the multi-year process, Vic spent a vast amount of time at his studio transforming the concept of his original drawing into human form, capturing the anatomical movement of live subjects and applying various techniques to create and stabilize the elements used in each clay original. From wire meshes, steel reinforced armatures, and eventually shaping raw clay, each motion worked by Vic’s hands brought him closer to realizing unique composites, which would eventually create the final pieces presented to the GEHC Foundation.
Upon completion of Mr. Hill’s likeness, and the supporting figures of children and a turtle, the clay originals were processed to form rubber mold negatives that would be sent off to a foundry outside of Metro Atlanta in Cherokee County. Master artisan, Jack Ward of Ward Sculptural Arts, spent time with Vic to synthesize the elements presented into his personal workshop from Vic’s studio, from where he would create several beautiful bronze pieces using molten metal and a welder’s arc to amalgamate the individual parts into the final forms; representing the sculptor’s original constructs. At several thousand degrees, preparing the molds alongside the molten metal, the process excitingly felt as if alchemy could indeed create human form out of the mud from the Earth. Seeing Mr. Ward work on his own, with a natural sense of vibrancy and enthusiasm complemented with a smile in every step, he was surrounded by cranes and pulleys in a heated environment vented by a large fan, wherein he carefully and methodically whisked away at creating separate pieces (heads, legs, torsos, and arms) that would cool down and be ready to be broken out of their cast shells. Afterwards, Jack would assemble every component seamlessly together, for which it would be impossible to see that the final rendition of the clay original was ever separated in the first place.
After each piece in the final assembly was presented by Jack to Vic as a complete set, Vic returned the statues to his studio where he began to select the proper stone that would be added to the figure of Mr. Hill and cut to size for each subject in the installation. After visiting and selecting granite stone from a quarry, the rocks were weathered using an acid base and left outdoors to introduce a more natural look; eventually installed with steel reinforcement to prevent movement.
Afterwards, Vic and I began the process of determining the proper layout of each subject such that the composition would have complementary orientation that matched with the vision of the story that each subject would tell within a static moment in time. Spending a considerable amount of time in determining the best lighting configuration, from foreground, to background, including rim lighting on each subject, the positions were moved to their ideal marks and combined together by a wooden rig, intricately marked for their meticulous transition to the final site of installation.
Describing the composition’s thematic elements
Wayne Hill is reflecting on the work that he did serving Gwinnett County. He is seated here in a position ready to move fluidly into the next chapter of his life. He is about to move on when something catches his eye. There are three children playing outside in a time where there are so many other things to occupy their minds and hands. Technology has exploded, giving the children tools and distractions, representing the many things that lack the direct interaction with another individual. Society has lost its connectivity, which ere represents the connectivity with the Earth.
These children are taking the time to enjoy each other’s company, to be outdoors enjoying nature. They are discovering what “Mother Earth” has provided. The turtle represents “Mother Earth” in the Native American culture. Generations have bonded together in commitment to the environment but not all of society has engaged. It is up to the children to connect with one another and renew these commitments to save the Earth for their future generations, wherein in this installment, they model this concept for others: young and old.