“Soul Connection” Installed at SF Zoo

A couple weeks ago, FASCU MFA Van Nguyen unveiled her monument sculpture, “Soul Connection”, within the entry plaza at San Francisco Zoo. Check out the video above to see the piece come together along with comments from the artist, Maquette to Monument class instructor Peter Schifrin, and SF Zoo representative Joe Fitting.

UPDATE! Here’s a short video of the dedication for “Soul Connection” at the SF Zoo, which is now on extended display for a few more months!

Ceramics Students Try Ancient Raku Glazing Technique


We received a set of photos from FASCU instructor Anne Stryke of a ceramics raku session she recently joined headed up by Associate Director Margaret Keelan. In addition to the photos, which were taken out at the AAU foundry at 360 Swift, Anne provided some history of raku and the process:

“Raku is an old process that goes back to Japan about 500 years ago. Students in class build a ceramic form then fire it in the kiln at school before going to the foundry to raku. Students then paint the fired forms with special raku glazes. We take a bus to the bronze foundry because it is also a safe place to raku.”


1 : Students place their glazed ceramic pieces in old kiln, lid goes on and the kiln is fired to temperatures close to 1940 degrees F.



2 : We take lid off kiln when kiln reaches temperature. Notice the red hot ceramic pieces that are now ready to begin the raku process.


3 : Students geared up with special clothing remove hot ceramic pieces and place in trash cans that are 1/2 full of shredded newspaper (raku glazes interact with fire, smoke, reduction and oxidation process to create special glazed surfaces)



4 : Students cool down ceramic work with water, remove from trash cans and water down more to reveal glazed surfaces. Fun process!




Student Profile: Richard Black

Today we’re launching a new series of profiles that explore the influences, hopes and works of the many talented students who have joined the Fine Art Sculpture team at Academy of Art University.

Richard Black is currently working on his BFA in Fine Art Sculpture and took home the Best Figurative Sculpture Award at Spring Show 2013:

When did you first discover your interest in sculpture?

RB: Figure Modeling was my first introduction to sculpture. When I originally enrolled at AAU I enrolled in the Fine Art department for painting and drawing and as a part of that degree I was required to take the spread of Foundations classes. I had never even considered sculpture as a profession before coming to school, but a couple weeks into Figure Modeling I knew it was where I belonged. I changed my enrollment to the sculpture department and it’s been a love affair ever since. I really love it.

What type of sculpture interests you most?

Figurative sculpture is where my heart lies. I really love people and I’m endlessly fascinated with the human form. A beautiful body or an elegant line from elbow to finger or an honest gesture caught for a moment are all ideas that I love to see represented in art and sculpture. I hope that I continue to improve in my ability to capture those ideas in my sculptures during my remaining time at AAU.

Have a favorite artist or influence?

I have lots favorite artists and influences, but because I don’t come from a background in art most of my favorites are the ones right around me. Sculpturally I’d say [FASCU instructor] Alicia Ponzio, Gianna Dispenza, and [FASCU student] Edwin Morales are my favorites. I’m finding lately that some strong ideas are coming up to the surface from darker emotional places within me. Some recurring ideas circle around sexuality, fear, violence, power, and helplessness. I’m still struggling to figure out how best to represent my thoughts within my artwork, but I believe that I’m in a good place at AAU and surrounded by amazing people who are constantly pointing me in the right direction. Oh, and Jesus.

Which piece to you consider your best work?

Whichever one I’m working on at any given moment. I’m so new to making art that every day and every sculpture seems like an improvement over the last. I expect that that will continue to stay true for some time to come, at least I hope so. That being said, I don’t know that it was my best, but my favorite was a piece that I called “Resignation.” It was a depiction of Jesus coming off the cross and staring down at his nail kissed hand in disgust. After I finished it and put it up on the wall, it fell off and smashed on the floor, so I picked it all up and repaired it and put it back on the wall. Then it fell off again and smashed on the floor. I like to imagine that the Holy Ghost or whatever it is didn’t like it and kicked it onto the floor to spite me, but I still have all the pieces and one day it might get a proper resurrection.

Which class at AAU has had the greatest influence on your work?

Again, the ones I’m in now are the most influential at the moment, but if I had to pick one from my whole time here I would say Classical Figure sculpture with instructor Earl Enriquez. Even now, when I’m working on sculptures, I still hear Earl’s words. For instance, the first time I ever saw anyone use a rake tool was in that class and I figured I’d try one out and see what it was all about. So I pick up a rake and start raking the hell out of my sculpture sort of wondering what the point of it was. After a minute on this Earl came over and demonstrated how I should be using the rake and told me, “You have to use the tool in a way that compliments the form, like this.” And he demonstrated how to do it. I nodded and said, “Oh, alright, I see. Thank you.” But in my mind I was thinking, “I have no idea what that even means.” Now it’s been a couple years since I took that class and nearly every time I put tool to clay I think of that moment and I try to make sure that I’m using my tools in a way that will complement the form. Thank you Earl.

What do you hope to be doing ten years from now?

You know, I don’t really hope for things to happen, I just make specific plans and work to achieve them. I don’t always end up where I originally thought I would, but I rarely regret the journey.

A current work-in-progress

A current work-in-progress

New Work by FASCU Instructor Thomas Marsh

New AAU Fine Art Sculpture online instructor Thomas Marsh recently shared one of his latest pieces with us, a 5-foot tall sculpture of St. Joseph, Protector of Preachers, which will soon be cast in bronze. From the artist:

“This sculpture represents St. Joseph of the Holy Family, and will be located in the courtyard of a priory (residence building) of a group of Dominican priests in Charlottesville, VA. The dog with the torch is a traditional symbol of the Dominican religious order. Joseph’s tools, tunic, and sandals are authentic representations of those items from that time period in the Middle East.”

Thomas Marsh is a classical figurative sculptor who has specialized in figure and portrait sculpture for public and private display since 1977. He is currently instructing FASCU online courses in Life-Size Figure Modeling (360OL1) and MS: Figurative Sculpture Portrait (642OL1).

Be sure to check out his incredible body of work at his official website here.

Spring Show 2013 Interviews: Gwen Pier and Robin Salmon

We’re a little late getting to these interviews as Spring Show 2013 is now a couple months behind us, but these are definitely worth a watch. National Sculpture Society Executive Director Gwen Pier (above) and Brookgreen Gardens‘ Curator Robin Salmon (below) evaluate the latest offerings from FASCU and suggest potential opportunities for sculptors of all stripes.

Sculpting Surf Gods to Save Beaches


Outside Lands, the annual music, arts and food festival that overtakes San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park for a weekend every August, hosted one attraction this year that gave Academy of Art University Sculpture Chair Lawrence Noble an opportunity to combine the reckless twenty-something surfer of his youth with the deliberate and delicate sculptor of maturity. The result? A sculpted Egyptian relief with surfing gods, of course!

For two days at the event and for several days after, Noble crafted a striking glyph-laiden tablet depicting an Egyptian goddess with surfboard for Surfrider Foundation, an organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches. The sculpture also served to raise awareness for the upcoming Carve San Francisco sand sculpting event, where Noble will be acting as judge.

“Lawrence Noble is not only one of the most versatile artists of our time, but he is also a surfer and someone who celebrates the beauty and majesty of the ocean,” said Kathryn Keown, Founder and Executive Director of Carve. “We are privileged to have Lawrence offer his artistry and guidance at the Carve events.”

Lawrence Noble sculpts the Egyptian surf gods piece at Outside Lands

Lawrence Noble sculpts the Egyptian surf gods piece at Outside Lands

The sculpture, which gives a nod to both surfing and sand, will be showcased at the Carve San Francisco event at Crissy Field on October 16-20, where it’s likely to be sold to benefit Surfrider Foundation.

While Noble’s surfing days are far behind him, he found the experience of sculpting the Surfrider piece highly rewarding.

“The joy of sculpting can always be tempered by the joy of discovery, even if it is a rediscovery of a past experience,” says Noble. “The iconic nature of the ancients has appealed to me for a long time, and this event afforded the opportunity to combine passions in some new visual territory.”

While the relief image of surf goddesses is clearly a vision of fantasy, the hieroglyphics, when translated, are not.

“Carve Your Destiny!” it reads, according to Noble. “And I mean it!”

Learn more about Surfrider Foundation at surfrider.org and Carve San Francisco – in which FASCU students Jihoon Choi and Seok don Choi are participants – at facebook.com/CarveSanFrancisco.