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In my LITTLE DANCER AGED 14, based directly on the important Degas sculpture of the same title, I attempt to explore important themes of balance, gesture, and the individual human child with flat steel taking the place of the master's wax and bronze.
There are eight crescents featured in my piece. The three legs necessary to make the sculpture balance and be free standing are each a crescent. Each arm consists of two crescents. The head is a crescent. I created an erect form for the crescents around one central piece of square tubing.
It’s a minimalist piece, all flat cut steel welded together. There's one place -- the shoulders -- with a little blacksmithing. Youthful and graceful shoulders are important. The shoulder crescents, extending above the collarbone, were heated and hammered over. I think the collar bone is a winning detail. A formal circle forms the waist.
The Little Dancer’s head in the original work is bent back with a touch of cynicism unusual in a girl of 14. We wonder what she knew and had seen as a dancer on the Paris stage. There’s something in that face. So I set a very broad crescent tilted back with doubt, and I debated a long time about the eyes. Because they are nearly closed, I drilled two small holes to penetrate her thoughts.
I’ve been refining this image for many years, slightly changing cross sections, elevations here and there, and balance points. The weight of the piece is on the back foot like the center of gravity of the original Degas figure. Of course, I happened to need three legs to balance steel while a human being only needs two.
The original Little Dancer's perceived plainness, even ugliness, captivated contemporary Paris. She was not someone’s idea of female perfection. She was about childhood. She was about womanhood. She’s about knowledge. She’s about experience; abuse might be inferred. She's a small, insignificant person taking the stage in the world.
And she was reviled as a picture of ugliness until the image changed perceptions.
15' x 8' x 8'
LITTLE DANCER, AGED 14
Gas Light Park, MIlwaukee, Wisconsin
LITTLE DANCER, AGED 14 Schematic
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LITTLE DANCER, AGED 14 AT 6FT
LITTLE DANCER, AGED 14 AT 6FT AND 4FT
LITTLE DANCER, AGED 14 AT 12FT