A ten and a half foot sculpture of a ballerina’s point shoe in motion has been installed and is open for public viewing at the MassMutual Gallery of the new Mort and Irma Handel Performing Arts Center at the University of Hartford, West Hartford, Conn. The installation is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The sculpture is the work of Christopher Wallis, a second-year sculpture student at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts. The sculpture integrates work from three of his classes ─ sculpture composition, drawing and anatomy. Working with his faculty advisors, Brian Craig-Wankiiri and Ann Quinn, Wallis arranged an independent study. Weekly, he traveled to the University of Hartford to sketch ballet dancers.
The independent study combines Wallis’ fascination for dance with his studies of anatomy, figurative drawing and sculpture; his interest in creating a body of work rather than single pieces to integrate and reinforce what he is learning; and his preference for working in life-size or larger-than-life dimensions.
The pose of the ballet shoe represents that of a female dancer who is being pulled up by her partner to a standing position, with the heel moving forward over the toes. This pose was chosen to convey motion, a daunting challenge in a stationary piece. With instruction and guidance from faculty member Will Kurtz, Wallis tried several approaches and sizes before deciding on materials (fabric and music sheets), and the supporting structure (a 24 inch square steel plate base attached to an armature barely visible to the viewer in the completed piece and balanced for an unimpeded view). The ballet shoe includes ribbons that are traditionally criss-crossed and tied just above the ankle, depicting the exact size and placement of the leg without showing it, and further contributing to the sense of motion. Sculpting the ribbons to be rigid around thin air presented more technical challenges, which, after trial and error, are being addressed using old-fashioned, reconstituted, powdered starch.
When representatives of the University of Hartford saw photographic images of the sculpture as a work in progress, they asked Wallis to install and exhibit it at their performing arts center.
The untitled sculpture will be exhibited through May 12, 2011.