“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!

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

FASCU Student Sculpts Wicked Witch of Oz for Museum

Witch hands and head sculpted by TonyaMarie with Michael Poland assisting in mold making and hair punching

Wicked Witch of Oz wax sculpture by FASCU student TonyaMarie

Don’t click your heels and wish yourself home just yet.

The Wicked Witch of the West, sculpted by FASCU’s own TonyaMarie and currently on display at the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf, will only be appearing through this Thursday – after that, she’ll become the stuff of dreams.

“It’s bittersweet,” says TonyaMarie, who has been working for the museum on an internship and just completed the sculpture of the iconic character last week. “The museum has been sold and closes on the 15th, so (the witch) will only be up a few short days.” While nearly the entire assortment of wax sculptures from the 50-year-old venue is being sold to a Los Angeles-based museum, TonyaMarie’s Wicked Witch – as well as the other characters of Oz – will remain in current owner Rodney Fong’s personal collection.

L to R: Costume maker Vincent of Dreamhouse, the Wicked Witch of the West, sculptor TonyaMarie, and Gallery Curator/Director Curtis Huber

L to R: Costume maker Vincent of Dreamhouse, the Wicked Witch of the West, sculptor TonyaMarie, and Gallery Curator/Director Curtis Huber (not pictured: Michael Poland assisted in mold-making and hair-punching)

Finishing a direct study internship to complete her Sculpture MFA at Academy of Art University, TonyaMarie was thrilled at the opportunity to sculpt one of her all-time favorite movie villains. “I had assumed that I would be doing repairs and refurbishing throughout the museum for my internship,” says Marie, who welcomed the opportunity to take on the specialized set of skills required of a wax museum. “When curator Curtis Huber told me he was going to have me sculpt, paint and create the Wicked Witch of the West, I was so excited! I’d not only get to learn the whole process, but also add an important piece to my own portfolio.”

TonyaMarie currently runs Gypsy Cat Studios, which she says has been heavily supported by costume work – from mascot characters to children’s theater companies throughout the Bay Area. It only seems fitting that she would be tasked with creating the head and hands for a character complemented by an equally iconic costume (created for the museum by Vincent of Dreamhouse). Marie also takes pride in her ability to design and create odd and unusual pieces for clients who are having difficulty finding someone to make them. “That is a niche I am known for and I love that type of work,” she says.

While the Wicked Witch may be hidden from view after Thursday, TonyaMarie’s stroll into the Land of Oz looks likely to continue into next year. “I have been contacted by someone for a very large Wizard of Oz event who wants me to design and make the props and costumes for the film’s 75th Anniversary in 2014. Also, Madame Tussauds is moving into the Wax Museum [at Fisherman’s Wharf] next summer, so you never know!”

TonyaMarie’s Wicked Witch sculpture can be viewed through this Thursday at the Wax Museum on 145 Jefferson Street at Fisherman’s Wharf. For any students willing to pull together a few friends, the museum has offered three FREE group passes (six students each) for anyone who wants to stop by the FASCU administration office at the Cannery (just a couple blocks from the museum). First come first served!

The Wizard of Oz wax troupe will only be on display through this Thursday!

The Wizard of Oz wax troupe will only be on display through this Thursday!

FASCU Students To Take Part In Sand Sculpting Event

FASCU students Jihoon Choi and Seok don Choi

FASCU students Jihoon Choi and Seok don Choi

FASCU students Jihoon Choi and Seok don Choi will be showing off their sculpting skills at San Francisco’s first ever international sand sculpture competition — Carve San Francisco – running October 16-20 near the Sports Basement at Crissy Field!

The event, which is hosted by Hub Strategy and follows their successful Carve Tahoe snow sculpting event last February, will also feature the return of AAU Sculpture Chair Lawrence Noble as one of the judges of the sand sculpting event.

“The Academy of Art University School of Sculpture is proud to provide two of our best students to Carve San Francisco,” says Noble. “It affords a great opportunity for both students to not only represent our home state of California but also their home country of South Korea. We are confident their talents will shine.”

Carve showcases the extreme art of sand sculpting, inviting teams from around the world to sculpt 400 tons of sand into astounding and intricate works of art over five days. It features sculpting, surf artistry and board shaping, music and gourmet food trucks provided by Off The Grid.

The event brings awareness to and raises funds for two non-profits, the San Francisco Chapter of Surfrider Foundation and Sustainable Surf. Funds are raised by encouraging visitors to vote with $1 for their favorite sculptures.

Carve will be held from October 16th-20th near the Sports Basement in the Presidio (Crissy Field) and will include daily activities including “Sandcastles & Schools” in which Bay Area students K-12 are invited to meet the artists, learn about ocean preservation and restoration, and play in 25 tons of sand.

Check out Carve San Francisco’s Facebook page for more info and updates!

FASCU Chair Noble by Jihoon Choi

Student Jihoon Choi has been keeping the staff and faculty here at the Cannery gleefully entertained with his summer series of faculty portrait sculptures (previous entries included Associate Director Margaret Keelan and instructor DJ Burt). We snapped a couple dozen images of his latest portrait of FASCU Chair Lawrence Noble and plugged them into a gif for some added value. With several weeks left in the summer session, we’re sure to see more faculty members in clay emerge from the studio of Jihoon Choi…


Portrait Sculpture Time-Lapse

Last semester, we set up a camera for three consecutive sessions in Lawrence Noble’s Portrait Sculpture (FASCU 345) class to see how a piece comes together in the span of just a few minutes. Check out student Shadoe Delgado (with cameos by Gianna Dispenza, Richard Thoms, and others) as he sculpts model Alexei Setian at FASCU’s Cannery studio. The four-minute video represents over 20 hours of sculpting!

Many thanks to Brad Robertson at Cyber Campus for editing the piece and composing the music!!

AAU Sculpture Students Shine at CCACA Event in Davis

The FASCU exhibit at CCACA

The FASCU exhibit at CCACA

Over the weekend of April 26-28, the city of Davis, CA played host to the 2013 California Conference for the Advancement of Ceramic Arts (CCACA), an annual event which showcases the best ceramic work from dozens of California colleges and beyond. This year, works by 30 graduate and undergraduate advanced students from Academy of Art University’s Fine Art — Sculpture program were exhibited, receiving a fantastic response from event attendees.

“This year was a spectacular success,” says FASCU Associate Director Margaret Keelan, who heads up the Ceramics program at Fine Art — Sculpture. “At least 500 people — artists, teachers, and collectors — came through each day, all raving about the show and the quality and professionalism of the presentation and work. This was a huge boost to our students.”

FASCU undergrad Shadoe Delgado, who exhibited one of his signature stylized figures and a trio of ceramic masks – found the CCACA event highly rewarding. “I think looking at all of the different schools and learning from other professional artists is important to our growth as students,” says Delgado. “It’s also really great when you’re talking about your instructor to another school and their response is, ‘THE Margaret Keelan?!?!’ We see her on a regular basis and almost forget how prominent she is in the ceramics world.”

The students are more than mere exhibitors at CCACA – it’s a working professional experience from start to finish. “The students set up the show, which involves cleaning and preparing the space, placing the pedestals, arranging the work and lighting it,” says Keelan. “They work in 1-2 hour shifts for the duration of the exhibition, talking to the public about themselves, their sculptures and our program. This was a profound professional experience for our young artists, who were able to apply their learned skills to a real world event.”

In addition to a healthy dose of public exposure, the students also benefitted from seeing the work of their regional peers. “Our students were able to see work produced at the same level in other programs throughout California,” explains Keelan. “It made them realize the value of what we teach in terms of skills and concepts.”

Check out the AAU student work showcased at CCACA below, and be sure to stop by the Facebook page for California Conference for the Advancement of Ceramic Arts to see more work exhibited at the event!

Student Sculpture Proposals for FASCU Office

With a new set of lovely French doors recently installed in the FASCU offices at the Cannery, an unexpected blank space was created to the left of the entryway — and what better way to fill it than with a custom relief sculpture created by a FASCU student?!

At the request of Sculpture Chair Lawrence Noble, instructor Scott Donahue (Relief: Expression & Interpretation) set his students to work proposing several different possibilities for the space, which we are showcasing below. The students were instructed to carefully consider the space surrounding the relief (15th century English oak paneling) and the context of its location.

After much deliberation, a fantasy-themed Victorian elephant relief by student Seok Don Choi has been chosen to occupy the void framed by the centuries-old paneling, and is the final piece depicted below. We’ll update this story once the final relief is in place!

Many thanks to the students of FASCU 645 for their dedication and wonderful proposals!


Jihoon Choi chose to incorporate AAU school iconography and an old English font to convey the tone and purpose of the space:

Luotian Zhang incorporated several facial profiles into his design, each expressing a different emotion:

Welat Binavi took a more non-literal approach with a rather pleasant color-scheme:

Wenquing Cui took inspiration from the old walls to create an Egyptian hieroglyphic motif:


Finally, Seok Don Choi’s fantastical Victorian elephant proposal was selected for the space, which was supported by his stunning sketches and 3D mock-up:

Seok Don at work on the relief:

UPDATE: Check out the final work installed below — we think it’s absolutely fantastic!!

Finished elephant relief by Seok-don Choi