Al Green Studio artist creates sculpture for the 2017 Brain Project
The Telus Brain Project (www.brainproject.ca) is a large-scale outdoor exhibit that brought brain health, art and imagination to the streets of Toronto to start a public conversation about brain health and to bring awareness to diseases like Alzheimer’s. 100 artists from around the world transformed blank brain sculptures into beautiful, energetic and though-provoking pieces of art. Funds raised through the project are donated to Baycrest Health Sciences, a global leader in brain health and aging.
Sculptor Mary Ann Grainger wanted to create a lace brain that would seem to magically float in the air. “Life and lace are both exquisitely fragile” says Grainger. “Life is the space between one breath and the next. Lace is the space between one knot and the next. When tied together into permanent knots, string becomes lace. When tied together through electrical charges, experiences become memories.” Grainger created this sculpture in honour of philanthropist and artist Al Green who recently passed away from Alzheimer’s.
But how to create such a brain? Mary Ann knew of Powertex and planned to use it to stiffen sewn-together doilies over the supplied brain sculpture form and mount it on a plexiglass pole. Simple, right? Unfortunately, there is no product that can stiffen fabric and withstand the 170-180 degree temperatures that the sculpture would be subjected to outdoors inside the display case. Faced with a great idea that would literally melt under the sun, she had to find a solution. She needed to build an “invisible armature” – an oxymoron if ever there was one!
After much experimentation, Mary Ann decided to create a plexiglass brain as an armature, even though she’d never worked with the material before. Learning by doing, she thermocast and trimmed plexiglass pieces with a multi-piece plaster cast of the brain sculpture form. Affixing the plexiglass pieces to each other was a challenge. Grainger ended up choosing 3M VHB tape which was used to adhere stainless steel to the outside of Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. It worked. The armature itself was a unique sculpture, but its job was to never be seen.
Now it was time to make the lace brain.
Mary Ann sourced vintage doilies from local Toronto stores, hand-made doilies through etsy and ebay, and even antique doilies from a fabric shop on a trip to London, UK. She laid them out to create a pleasing visual pattern, then sewed them together into 3 larger sections. Each of these sections was then placed onto the brain sculpture form and impregnated with Powertex. The Powertex worked its magic and the final 3 large stiffened pieces were assembled over the plexiglass brain and, voila! A floating lace brain!
Mary Ann’s brain was purchased by Visionary Sponsors David & Stacey Cynamon raising $25,000 for Baycrest brain research.
You can see the full step-by-step process on Mary Ann’s instagram feed @MaryAnnGraingerArt or her website http://www.mmasstudio.com