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Convention speech: Sculptor casts Darrow ‘warts and all’

By Zenos Frudakis

You all know about Clarence Darrow. I love his quote, “I do not believe in God because I do not believe in Mother Goose.” He said a lot of great things. He looked like he slept in his clothes, a

Zenos Frudakis works on sculpting the head of Clarence Darrow to be attached to the sculpted body later.
Dan Barker and Zenos Frudakis shake hands in front of the finished Clarence Darrow statue, installed on its pedestal in Rhea County, Tenn.

nd that’s because he did. He drank hard, he was a womanizer, but he was a great lawyer.

When I was thinking about creating the sculpture, I wanted him to look just like he was, unlike the sculpture of William Jennings Bryan, which was untrue — not just in the sculpture, but also in the argument it was making for creationism. I wanted to show Clarence Darrow the way he looked at 68 years old at the time of the trial, warts and all. You know, the baggy clothes, the pants up to here, which, I guess, was the style. Like a lot of older people, he still had the style from an earlier period. He is famous for his suspenders, which he used to snap when he was making a point.

And because I wanted to be realistic, I wanted to sculpt him the way he was, with long hair. But for this trial he cut his hair. I wanted to show this was that moment in time, again because I wanted to show that the other sculpture didn’t have that kind of credibility.

The clay I used was from about that period, the 1920s. Some of it was used to make the Lincoln Memorial. It’s a plastalina made from olive oil. And it’s passed down. When I die, it will get passed on to another sculptor. You use it over and over again. And the tools are all handmade. It’s not something you can go out and buy. In times past, sculptors made their own tools, they didn’t go to a store and buy sculpture tools like you would buy paint.

You start with a conceptual model. This you start small because you want to be able to make changes. And as you get larger, the armature has to be sturdier to hold up the larger  piece. You can’t make the changes as easily. You want to start with a small piece.

Margaret Downey said it looks like he’s pointing to heaven. That might not be good. But one of the photos had him pointing up, so that’s why I did that. I was going to have a base that represented the various periods of evolution, so he could stand on his argument and put Lucy the hominoid between his shoes. But we didn’t have enough time and we started to run out of money.

Before I get the statue to the full size of 7 feet tall, I start with him nude. That’s the way it’s traditionally been done. So that way he wears the clothes, the clothes don’t wear him. When you have a figure and you have folds, they follow the arm. Otherwise, if you just sculpt the clothes first, you could cut into the anatomy, cut into the biceps and so on. So that’s why I first created him naked.

You also don’t want to work on a head that’s  seven feet up in the air. It gets uncomfortable. This took two years to do. It’s like taking a car and smashing it a little. It’s still all there, but it’s not the same. Right? I worked on the head separately.

One of the things I was told from the beginning is they didn’t want to see the name “Freedom From Religion Foundation” anywhere around the base. And they didn’t want me to overshadow the other piece. The other sculpture was 10 feet tall with the base. It has a 4-foot base and a 6-foot sculpture. You really shouldn’t do a 6-foot sculpture outside, because it looks smaller-than-life, so I almost always do 7 feet tall or more. So, I made a 7-foot sculpture on a 3-foot base. It made my sculpture a little larger than the other one. It’s subtle, but it’s still the same height. I technically stayed within the rules.

Next is the rubber mold. You pour rubber over the clay. It looks like an alien movie or something that’s been covered and then you put plaster over the rubber. There’s clay in there. Once you take the clay out it’ll flop around. But the plaster holds the rubber like a mother holds a child, so it’s called the mother mold.

Then you take out the clay and you pour wax into the rubber mold and you pull sections out. You put what’s called “sprues” on after they cast the wax. And that’s how you deliver the liquid bronze to the different parts of the sculpture. You have to have one on the end of the nose and otherwise the bronze won’t get there. The bronze is melted, and as it moves, it cools. If it cools and it doesn’t get to all the parts, then you only have a partial cast.

You dip the wax in a ceramic material and you can see the sprues. There’s wire in there because sometimes it’ll explode while they’re pouring. And I’ve been there. You have molten bronze kind of flying around. It’s still kind of flat looking. Bronze is not by itself that attractive. It’s all welded together and this is the patina process. You can see how it’s changing color. And what that does, the patina helps protect the bronze outdoors. It also gives it a quality almost of skin to be able to look into it. It gives it a depth, especially when you add the wax.

I made it green because I wanted it to look at least as old as the sculpture that was already there. Normally, I would make it kind of a brown, but I wanted it to look like it belonged with the Williams Jennings Bryan statue.

It’s like when you’re painting, you’re doing glazes, you’re going to make a painting lighter and then the glazing darkens it. I wanted to make a statement with the whole sculpture.

I made the pedestal look better than the Bryan one. He had a concrete pedestal. There are little ways to overwhelm, to compete with, to make it better.

But you can see the warm brick and the warm stone and then the rough stone at the bottom that matches the bottom of the courthouse. There’s kind of a visual rhyme. It looks like it belongs.