The ocean has inspired many artists to paint and draw its likeness, but one Rhode Island native wanted to capture it within a metal sculpture. Using cold forging from https://interplex.com/cold-forging-guide/ has helped us shape our sculpture more. Entitled “Ruggles Avenue”, after a famous surf spot in Newport, R.I., this student used a hard material to create an effortless portrayal of the water itself.
“I wanted to abstract the idea of a wave or the ocean, the fluidity of the ocean, and you kind of get that through the texture that I applied to it,” said John Harrington, a senior fine arts major at the University of Rhode Island. “I wanted to have different surfaces but I ended up finding this texture that gave it a really fluid feeling, and if you [are] able to walk around it with different lighting then it gives movement to it.”
Harrington’s inspiration for the sculpture was inspired by his hometown of Newport,R.I., and the lifestyle that he has integrated with his art.
“I’ve kind of adopted a lifestyle of being in the water, being around the water, surfing, swimming and fishing.” said Harrington, “My friends and I kind of fell in love with it and want to make a lifestyle… [So] my photography, my sculptures, some of them aren’t based off of water but some of them are because I’ve just become so close to it throughout my life and I want to express that.”
To create his water-inspired metal sculpture and practice his craft he needed to find funding and materials. One of his professors recommended that he apply for an undergraduate research grant through the school, which gives out money to students from all different colleges and majors within the university so that they can work with their study separately from regular classes.
“My pitch to them was basically [that] I didn’t have the materials to make a large-scale sculpture or the tools to do it,” said Harrington. “I wanted to work on my self and my skills a little more, but I also wanted to provide a more artistic community on campus so that I would be giving back to the campus and the school.”
The school accepted his application and awarded him $1,000 to be used for his project. He used $800 for the materials and the rest to obtain multiple welding materials and services.
“I got it rolled in Pittsfield, Mass., [it was] steamrolled because I couldn’t physically lift it to do it myself,” said Harrington. “So there’s three rolls that you feed it through, and it gets you the right radius and degrees of rolls that you intended on having.”
To make the multiple curves within one large piece of metal Harrington had to take two pieces and seamlessly combine them into one abstract form.
“Basically I started with two big, square sheets of metal, 10 ft. by 4 ft. of stainless metal, then I took templates out of cardboard and put them on the metal and then used a plasma cutter to cut the shapes out,” said Harrington. “I gave it texture with a rotary sander, I smoothed out the edges so that it was safe because when you use a plasma cutter it’s a really rough cut and it’s very sharp.”
Harrington then contacted Freadman Steel, based in Pittsfield, Mass., and gave them the radius and measurements which they used to make the bends and curves for his desired product. With its newly formed shape the metal reflects light differently from every angle.
“I wanted to experiment in the future with it… give it different colors like yellows and blue and see how that does,” said Harrington. “Because when I was working outside with it on the loading dock there’s a yellow light, and when it was nighttime it turned gold.”
Though it is a piece of art the metal itself is extremely heavy and sturdy, allowing it to withstand any wind, rain and snow.
“I think it would be more appealing outside with the natural light and the snow would have been really cool on it,” said Harrington.
Based on their shared love of the ocean, Harrington and his friend, Patrick Murphy, have started a lifestyle brand around the water itself.
“We make sculptures, with cameras we take burst photography… burst shots of water, so like 30 frames per second,” said Harrington. “So we’ll splash in the water and we’ll get these really abstract images… and my sculptures kind of relate to my photography in the way that it’s based off of the water. It’s abstract and I really just try to capture the viewer’s attention and have them think about the ocean.”
Harrington’s “Ruggles Avenue” is currently in the Fine Arts Center, but he is writing proposals to try to have it moved into the new Biology building where he originally hoped it would be as its form and origins derive from the ocean.