David Middlebrook

davidmiddlebrook

David Middlebrook is an artist who traces his roots to ceramics and who has evolved to become a professional sculptor specializing in site-specific work, public and private commissions, and smaller sculptural elements. He was born and raised in Jackson, Michigan and went on to earn his M.F.A from the University of Iowa in 1970. He burst into the art world and quickly became an inspiring pioneer in a ceramic art movement that was gaining momentum in the late 1970’s. He accepted a teaching position at San Jose State University in 1974, relocated to California and has maintained a studio in the hills of south bays Los Gatos ever since. David has had several transforming experiences that have molded him into the artist he is today. In 1980, he gathered his family and moved to the northern tip of Australia where he held the post of visiting artist at the University of Darwin. And then in 1982 he took a similar position at the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Both experiences were 1-year excursions and allowed David to explore these two remarkable countries. His travels put him in direct contact with the respective native cultures of each country and their unique artistic vision of life. This exposure proved to be quite influential in terms of content as the primitive aesthetic continues to find it way into David’s work to this day…

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As a master of ceramics and all its applications, for years David had struggled with the instability of this material and found many of its characteristics to be limiting. In 1983 he traveled to Northern Italy and discovered stone and it changed his approach to art forever. Since that trip, he has maintained a professional relationship with a studio in Pietrasanta, Italy. The availability of virtually every stone in the world, a thousand years of experience and tradition in stone and their specialized technology to fabricate make this Italian resource an invaluable asset. In addition to the 2 trips he makes to Italy each year, David maintains his status as Associate Director of Fine Arts at SJSU, which affords him the use of the university foundry for his bronze work.
Over the last 20 years, David Middlebrook as evolved as an artist and has become a master of materials. His work today involves a broad range of stone marble and bronze and dimensions from 50 lbs. to 50 tons. He has established himself as a specialist in large-scale site-specific work. These projects have fostered collaborations with architects, design professionals, developers and contractors. He has completed approximately 50 public and private works of this nature, many of which were nationally-awarded competition commissions.

Paleolithic fossils help us determine points in time. The scale of this replica of the sacred Egyptian “Ibis” bird skull is referring to a possible future point in time. The balancing block of basalt was formed in the Cretaceous period 65 million years ago when the last great extinction of the dinosaurs took place. The lone survivors became the birds of today. I carved this Ibis at the scale of the T-Rex suggesting some future skull will be found. Lodged in stone but exposed creating a visual bridge from the last great extinction to a future event of major demise.. According to scientists, future environmental disasters will lead to surviving birds over eating debris to grow to the once Jurassic scale. The Ibis skull was carved then cast in bronze and patinaed. The block is carved from Columbia River basalt. The support talon is the actual scale of a T-Rex.

I gravitate towards images that ask questions, not answer them. A precious bundle ….but what is inside? Are the straps supporting or holding back this bundle? This piece was inspired by video of world refugees fleeing danger seeking a safe haven with only a bundle on their heads. Our country is affluent and most can’t imagine narrowing down our lives to what we could carry in a small bundle. The bundle is cast aluminum with a silver nitrate patina to simulate antique family heirlooms. The cargo straps are typically used to lower care packages or for rescue missions. The animated suspension of this piece raises the political question, are we helping or hindering the “bound and determined” to survive.

The world wetlands have greatly diminished in the last century due to humans. I have studied the many species whose habitat is in peril and these eggs in this piece are some examples of these species. The eggs were carved in Styrofoam at a larger scale, then covered with wax and cast in bronze and aluminum. I developed a system with fired ceramic under-glazes and then applied bronze patinas on top. The composition was achieved with anchored threaded stainless welded steel pins and the piece breaks down to 3 sections. The bottom anchor balance egg was carved in white Italian Carrera marble. I tried to create a tumbling composition with the natural building blocks of nature (eggs) in tension by sense of falling. Through the process of evolution, natural law is always rising and falling. Like many of my works, I try to use gravity as an esthetic and a devise to provoke the viewers’ perception. I try to tantalize the imagination with visual beauty and uncertainty about cause and effect. The eggs are caught in a perilous situation of falling but not breaking. This implies we’re close but not too late to save a disastrous planetary result….balance and beauty in tension in a moment of harmony and peril.

This is a small poetic composition of two of the primary elements of the planet. The inert moss laden rock is being penetrated by a organic wedge of wood. This sliver of wood has petrified into silver, an inert precious metal. Both objects have provided endless use and wealth for mankind. However, only vigilant stewardship will preserve their continued sustained value for generations to come. These found objects were cast in bronze from molded wax originals and then pinned and ceramic fused, patinaed and finished with silver nitrate fuming.

During the disaster of Katrina, I looked on the NOAH World Satellite web site and was amazed to see flocks of tropical birds feasting on the debris of the storm. I thought what would happen if these birds continued to eat and grew to the size of dinosaurs. I decided to use the Toucan skull at a huge scale as a future archeological specimen lifting up a Fema army blanket looking for food. This precarious composition explores the perilous relationship we have with nature and our inability to cope with or control it. The bird was cast in bronze after being carved in great accurate detail in wax. The colors are achieved with ceramic under-glazes baked on the bronze before the hot patinas are introduced. The army issued blanket was hung in a upright position and a mold was taken and then poured with wax and cast in aluminum.

The ironic beauty of natural process is celebrated in this piece to illumate that “nature will find a way”. A twisted branch is capable of penetrating a solid rock if all the right conditions exist. This stone bench was carved from Arabian Red Sandstone. This stone is found in one of the driest places on earth, the deserts of the Middle East. Water is scarce but plants do grow with determined force. In this piece, the branch served as a seat back imbedded in the stone. The branch was formed with clay-moulding a real branch then translated into wax, bent to fit the stone then cast into bronze. It is fully functional and weather-sealed for an outdoor garden or as a patio bench sculpture.

I had great fun creating this poetic ecological moment in time. The lead bearing water is stopped in mid air by a granite rock. This event could of course never happen, but perhaps the surprisingly humorous composition will allow the viewer a moment to stop and ponder its implications. The soft/hard, bright and dense tension creates harmony from chaos. The water is cast and polished aluminum from a sculpted clay original and the pastel granite rock is fired ceramic under-glazed cast patinead bronze.

The great surrealist Painter of the Renaissance came to mind when I composed this piece. He used the egg as both a figurative element and a symbol of birth. I made the old cardboard box appear to be of great value with silver fuming but unstable under the weight of the fertile fruit-like egg. The piece has both a figurative and a found object look. Balance and color play a big role in this both humorous but elegant composition. The silver nitrate treated bronze box addresses the importance of the value of those things we commonly discard. The fertile egg is the future and is dependent on how we take care of the soon to be discarded past. The egg is cast bronze with 3 ceramic-fired under-glazes before a Spanish red iron oxide patina is applied. The bronze cardboard box is treated with silver nitrate. The piece disassembles for ease of shipment.

Cast Patinated Bronze and White Marble 8.5×10′ ...

Varied Woods, Baltic Resin and Cast Bronze 70x35x34 ...

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