Sebastian Martorana

[New Construction: Brick Step, salvaged marble row home step]

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New Construction: Brick Step, 2013

Salvaged Beaver Dam marble, salvaged row home step, 8" x 42" x 13"

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Ever since I showed the first “New Construction” piece (the cinder block), people have been telling me: “You should carve a brick! You should carve a brick!”

People are always telling me what I should carve and sometimes they are right. But in this case, honestly–that didn’t sound very interesting. Conceptually it made sense; bricks are another modern material being used to replace what once would have been marble. I am always saddened when I see a set of bricks slapped up where stone steps once existed stoops (particularly those new smooth and perfect bricks that lack any of the charm of the aged and irregular bricks that new-old-homeowners are always exposing). And, more often than not, the bricks aren’t even laid well! And, one or two steps on the outer edges are usually missing or have been re-set at one time or another.

Yet still, “a brick” was still not interesting enough to compel me to just carve one out of stone . . . Then I remembered something that one of my grad school professors , Ming Fay, said during a group crit: “If you are going to do something simple–do a lot of it.”

It then occurred to me that unlike a cinder block, a single brick is not very structurally or sculpturally dynamic, but like a cinder block they are meant to be used in concert. So I decided to just illustrate the thing that I was hoping to speak against: a step made of bricks that was once a step of marble.

This proved to be quite a challenge. On one hand this is one of the rawest sculptures that I’ve ever done; the broken edge and the un-finished, roughly tooled interior sides were left un-re-carved. On the other hand, because I was trying to represent a series of nearly perfect and identical objects assembled together imperfectly, the piece was extremely technically demanding. I spent a lot of time removing very small amounts of stone to make sure that right angles were actually right angles. Add to that the fact that this particular stone had a wide vein of some of the hardest minerals present in nature. You can see the sparks fly--literally.

It would have actually been far easier to carve a series of bricks that were aligned perfectly rather than a series of bricks that are slightly out of kilter. This is definitely the kind of piece that owes credit to my trainers at Manassas Granite & Marble, Inc. who, during my apprenticeship, instilled the technical skills and discipline of the craft of carving that now allow me the ability to make this kind of sculptural work.

So while one carved brick would probably be pretty lame– I’m hoping that twenty-six carved bricks are not.

Artworks by Sebastian Martorana

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