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William Henry Rinehart's Marble Studio

william-henry-rineharts-marble-studio

The Process of Creating a Living Image

Between March 29th 2015 and August 15th 2015 a Special Exhibition ran at The Walters Art Museum. "Rough Stone To Living Marble" showcased the works of William Henry Rinehart as well as explained in detail the marble carving process.

The ingenuity put into the marble carving process is an interesting one, yet simply put it requires precision. However one of the themes of the exhibition (and possibly an unintentional one as most exhibitions at The Walters cause) was the question of who really created the showcased art.

In our present day of advanced machinery one person, the artist, can create whatever they want. During the time of William Henry Rinehart such pneumatic tools, computers, and 3D printers did not exist yet. Artists like Rinehart required a team of sculptures to build his master pieces, but how hands-on is that exactly? Can you really call a man an artist if he just sits back and points his workers in various directions?

The process of marble carving is an art form that has been around since the Roman period. If you think about it as humans we have been carving things out of rock since the beginning of time, but since ancient Rome the process of marble carving has been one of the oldest known art forms.

Just walk into any museum and you can see that marble sculptures from that time period may not be perfect, but they are still there. Despite years of war, and conflicts of faith and nationality, marble sculptures stand the test of time.

As you walked into the gallery you immediately were greeted by the above examples of capturing human effects in the artwork. "Sleeping Children" by William Henry Rinehart being the creepiest. I suppose it depends on how you look at things but this piece represents just that. You can either view as just two children sleeping, you could think glass-half-empty (like a lot of Victorians did) and say they are in some kind of Gothic death slumber. Considering this is used as a gravestone in numerous cemeteries it's probably the latter.. Speaking of death and grave sites. "Love Reconciled with Death" was the base for the bronze statue above the Walters family grave at Greenmount Cemetery.

Carving Sculptures From Marble

As I mentioned above one of the most important aspects of marble carving is the precision. Personally I am not that crazy about mathematics, but with marble carving it all comes down to the slightest point of the mark.

The pointing apparatus is responsible for making sure the artist gets his drill point precisely where they want it. The "drilling" being down with a tool called a violin. The artist uses a metal drill bit (that's basically what it is, so get off my ass if there's an ultra artsy name for it) to make holes in the marble block.

From there they use a chisel and hammer to break off chunks of the marble after drilling their points. At this time in the marble carving operation their intended work starts to take shape. However this is not carpentry and requires more than a piece of sand paper to get the job done.


Working In The Special Exhibtion

The gallery was set up in a strange way. The Special Exhibition at the museum is like a large horse shoe, but only a third of the overall space was utilized. Two security guards were posted in the Exhibition at all times. The cameras were only pointed toward the entrance/exit and for the most part were either blocked or did not work at all. I am still not sure how this was considered ok by our Security Director, Chris Kunkle, who would normally oversee the installation of special exhibitions. Especially making sure that every single camera is in it's place and working perfectly.

Luckily 80% of the pieces were either made of marble or behind glass. There was also a great hiding spot near the emergency exit. That not only had a chair (a very important survival tool for long Thursdays) but also had great wifi. There was a sit-down spot near the Emergency Exit, provided that you dragged one of the comfy chairs back there with you. The Supervisors never really came into the exhibition or cared what you did at the time. Unfortunately this was the last exhibition that Reggie worked before he quit suddenly. I'm not sure of the reasons behind it, but I doubt it was the boredom of this place that did it.

Like us they did not take this exhibition seriously since the work order did not require more than two guards at a time. I know there are a lot of people that say "you must be so lucky to work in an art museum!" For the most part working Security in an art museum, especially this one in this city, is educational.

"If we squint we can just make out that suspicious looking person."

"If we squint we can just make out that suspicious looking person."

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