Pierson students learn the art of lost wax

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Students at Pierson High School in Sag Harbor spent much of this month learning the art of “lost wax” casting and making sculptural creations that will be immortalized in bronze. It’s the kind of opportunity many professional artists can only dream of.

Sculptor and two-dimensional artist Kimberly Monson, who taught the class after school through December 23, acknowledged on Sunday that because of the hefty expense of materials and the foundry, few artists ever get to see their sculptures cast in bronze. She explained that her class is funded by the Reutershan Trust, which was created to enrich the Pierson art program and provide one student with a $10,000 scholarship each year. “It’s a very generous trust,” Ms. Monson said, noting that because of it, her students will each get one of their pieces cast.

Ms. Monson, a Springs resident, is teaching a workshop at Pierson for a third consecutive year, but in previous years she taught students to sculpt portraits out of clay, much like her busts of John Steinbeck and Pierson benefactor Margaret Slocum Sage, which can be seen on display in the school. The sculptor’s portraits are cast in bronze, but in past years her students were able to make only plaster casts of their work.

This month’s lost wax workshop was offered in Pierson art teacher Peter Solow’s classroom and Ms. Monson said students were instructed to make three pieces, no bigger than about six inches, including a self portrait, a figure and an abstract. “Some of the students amalgamated them into all three,” she said, “I think it’s great.”

Ms. Monson explained that she told the kids what to make to provide some direction for those who needed it, but the kids have focused well and worked steadily.

Lost wax is the oldest and most traditional form of casting bronze, Ms. Monson said, noting that the wax sculptures are made into a bronze, one of a kind cast that will not be possible to re-create in this instance. Each cast would typically cost about $500, she said, noting that the foundry, Argos in Brewster, New York, is doing the work for only $300 because students are involved.

Ms. Monson said she plans to drive all the chosen pieces up to Argos next month and they should be delivered to the students by March.

This is the first year she’s teaching lost wax at Pierson, but judging by the success of the class, which was well received by the students and faculty, Ms. Monson said, “I think it will absolutely happen again.” She noted that the process is less labor intensive than sculpting portraits, it’s easier to clean up and it’s not toxic. Student use an open flame to manipulate the wax and heat their sculpting tools, but Ms. Monson said the kids have been safe and responsible.

The sculptor and her husband, painter Michael Viera, teach various art classes out of the Golden Eagle in East Hampton and she said a number of her students have gone on to show professionally. Many of Ms. Monson’s former students at Pierson have gone on to prestigious art schools around the country as well, she said.

“We have a mission to help train artists,” Ms. Monson said of the classes she and Mr. Viera teach. She said her goal is to aid budding artists to find their strengths and she does the same thing with students at Pierson, most of whom she described as serious about their work. Ms. Monson noted that the lost wax class grew from 16 students to 22 over the three weeks of scheduled instruction. “A lot of them are naturals,” she said, adding, “There’s nothing like seeing your piece in bronze.”

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