“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!

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.” Continue reading

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.

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…


Lucas Unveils Noble’s Yoda and Indy Bronzes for New Park

The small North Bay city of San Anselmo recently welcomed two new members to its community thanks to the generosity of resident George Lucas and artistry of Academy of Art University Sculpture Chair Lawrence Noble. Coordinated by Connie Rodgers of the San Anselmo Park Fund (see our previous story here), life-size bronze statues of Yoda and Indiana Jones –characters from Lucas’ Star Wars and Indiana Jones film series – were officially unveiled in a dedication ceremony for a new park in the city’s picturesque downtown district. Imagination Park, which occupies land donated by Lucas, is the new jewel of San Anselmo Avenue, thanks to a tranquil green space and centerpiece fountain topped with Noble’s stunning bronze figures.

George Lucas and FASCU Chair Lawrence Noble at Imagination Park dedication

George Lucas and FASCU Chair Lawrence Noble at Imagination Park dedication (Photo by Pete Vilmur)

“I am pleased as well as honored to have had the opportunity to have sculpted these two American icons and to witness their investment as bronze sculptures into our culture,” says Noble. “As the entire Star Wars Saga was created by George Lucas in San Anselmo, it is both fitting and proper as well as the perfect place for a park in their honor.”

While the park represents the third public installation for the Yoda bronze – the other two occupy Lucasfilm’s Presidio campus and Lucas’ Big Rock Ranch – this is the first and only public display of Noble’s Indiana Jones life-size bronze, which was delivered to Lucas back in 2009. Like the Lost Ark of the Covenant, the bronze was stored in Lucas’ vast archives building until the fateful day when it would be revealed and displayed for all to enjoy.

The bronze pair was unveiled under a bright summer sky by George Lucas himself amid throngs of community members and fans eager to take part in the historical dedication of a place sure to flow strong in the Force for generations to come.

You can visit Imagination Park in San Anselmo at 535 San Anselmo Avenue at Magnolia. To learn more about the park or to donate and have your name immortalized at the park, go to http://sananselmopark.org. Related: Lucasfilm’s Yoda Fountain: A Discussion with the Artist

George Lucas admires the new Indiana Jones bronze by AAU Sculpture Chair Lawrence Noble

George Lucas admires the new Indiana Jones bronze by AAU Sculpture Chair Lawrence Noble (Photo by Pete Vilmur)

Noble's Yoda sits behind Indy atop the park's large centerpiece fountain

Noble’s Yoda sits behind Indy atop the park’s large centerpiece fountain (Photo by Pete Vilmur)

Alameda Police Memorial Bronzes by FASCU Chair Lawrence Noble

"The Grieving Angels" monument

“The Grieving Angels” monument

Yesterday, three bronze sculptures by FASCU Chair Lawrence Noble were unveiled in front of Alameda Police Department memorializing two fallen officers from the department, Robert J. Davey and Deward B. Gresham. The event, which drew a large crowd of Alameda officers, press, and friends and family of the honored officers, included an introduction by Alameda Mayer Marie Gilmore and the ceremonial unveiling of the of three bronzes. In addition to two life-sizes busts, a “Grieving Angels” monument was also installed at the site, memorializing all who have served in the Alameda Police Department.

Check out some photos captured at the event below, and also head over to MercuryNews.com for several more.

Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore, and Lawrence Noble at the Alameda Police Memorial

AAU Vice President Melissa Marshall, Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore, and FASCU Chair Lawrence Noble at the Alameda Police Memorial

A friend of fallen Officer Deward Gresham admires the bronze cast in his image

A friend of fallen Officer Deward Gresham admires the bronze cast in his image

Lawrence Noble talks with Sue Davey, the wife of fallen Officer Robert Davey, Jr.

Lawrence Noble talks with Sue Davey, the wife of fallen Officer Robert Davey, Jr.

The memorial attracted a lot of press coverage

The memorial attracted a lot of press coverage

Academy of Art University Associate Director of Sculpture Margaret Keelan

Margaret Keelan, an accomplished sculptor and teacher of sculpture since 1976, is currently Associate Director at Academy of Art University’s School of Fine Art Sculpture, a role she has excelled in since 1997. Three years earlier, she had been recommended to the Academy by her friend and mentor, Marilyn Levine, who felt Keelan would be a perfect fit due to her interest in figurative sculpture.

Renowned for her series of ceramic child-like figures that appear disintegrated by decades of weathering and peeling paint, Keelan has developed these pieces over the last nine years, all while helming the Academy’s ceramics and glaze technology curriculums.

We asked Keelan about her artwork and what she’d most like students to take away from the Academy’s Fine Art Sculpture program:

What inspired you to become an artist – and has it always been sculpture?

"Dancer with White Rabbit"

“Dancer with White Rabbit”

MK: I decided at some point that being an artist was what I was best at. It consists of making objects, a process I find completely absorbing and satisfying, as well as a whole process of creative problem solving and mapping out personal evolution which is challenging and self- affirming. It completely suites my introverted, imagination-driven temperament.

Can you share some of the philosophy behind your artwork?

MK: My work is about authenticity, particularly as it emerges when we get older. I remember repainting someone’s kitchen once, and had to first scrape off the old paint. As it came off in layers. I realized that each layer, each color, represented a time period in the life of the person using the kitchen. So in my work there is the weathering of one layer to reveal the layer underneath, down to the essence of the person. The figures are usually young girls, referencing my own life and our own beginning youthful innocence. The faces are from molds of old 19th and early 20-century dolls to remove them from a specific time and place.

How long does it take you to create one of your pieces?

"Little Dancer with Cat" (detail)

“Little Dancer with Cat” (detail)

MK: These latest pieces are meticulously crafted and can take several days to sculpt. Then they must dry and be fired multiple times. I also work in stages and may need to let the work dry and “stiffen” a little as I build. As I apply my surfaces, each layer must be fired in the kiln. A large piece may take a month.

Surfacing is a very important aspect of your work — can you describe your approach?

MK: I embrace the process of using mat surfaces and painterly techniques such as dry brushing, dark base coats, washes, and multiple firings. Shiny glazes are used sparingly to draw the eye to specific areas.

Discuss your favorite piece that you’ve done. What were you thinking when you created it?

MK: I often most like the very last piece that I have done, or one that incorporates a new idea and technique, or has been particularly challenging. My most recent favorite is Pas de Dog. I wanted to build a piece that included my own dog, and worked with the theme of the show. There were a number of technical and compositional challenges that were fun to wrestle with. I am pleased with the tension between the child and the dog, how a narrative is suggested.

"Pas de Dog"

“Pas de Dog”

What kind of people would you say collect your artwork?

MK: People, who love old dolls, Santos figures, the outdoors, animals, birds, and natural, organic materials, find my work appealing.

As a teacher, what’s the most important thing you can impart to a student?

MK: Well, when students are first starting out, I would advise to expect the unexpected, with the addendum: do not be discouraged if it doesn’t come out the way you want the first time!

You have an exhibit coming up – can you describe what pieces you’ll be featuring and the overall theme of the collection?

MK: My exhibit is called “Interface”. It shows how dance, animals, and toys are some of the ways we can connect with the world of fantasy and magic that we knew as children. All the sculptures were made with this theme in mind.

Margaret Keelan’s “Interface” exhibit will premiere at Gail Severn Gallery in Ketchum, Idaho on July 1 and run through July 30th. Also be sure to check out her official site at MargaretKeelan.com!