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BODICES TAKE SHAPE IN METAL FORM

by Dani Vanderboegh

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, a phrase that’s been around for nearly a century, means more in Lawrence Feir‘s life than most. Feir constructs figurative sculptures using scrap metals he finds mainly in junk and scrap yards “” scrap metal combined with the female form (and the occasional male form).

At 205 Collaborative, where Feir serves as property manager and has been a full-time artist for the past three years, he constructs provocative artwork using molds he made from ladies’ bodies. Models, sometimes volunteers and sometimes those who commission Feir’s work, pose nude in an action pose while Feir uses plaster strips to cast the body’s form often focusing on the bodice.

He said the first mold is usually a throw away, but he can get many molds in that time period; each mold takes about 10-12 minutes. How does he prevent the plaster from sticking to the model’s skin? The trick is Nivea Cream, which works wonders, he said.

Once Feir has a workable cast, he carefully welds pieces of metal, usually small enough to fit in the palm of a hand (except in his “Look Who’s Coming to Dinner“ series, which uses flatware instead), together and bends each piece into the mold to make one large structure that either hangs or can be mounted to a stand.

When the sculpture is to his liking, he cleans the near-finished piece using hydrochloric or phosphoric acid. Feir said it’s hard to say how long the process takes because the molding takes a long time, and each piece differs in skill level and size.

Mechanically minded but not trained, Feir went to the University of Massachusetts Amherst and studied drawing, painting, jewelry and sculpture. He has lived in Greensboro for 25 years and, though he has always been interested in figurative sculptures, they became his major focus eight years ago. Although he never had formal training in engineering or mechanics, his father was an aeronautical engineer.

To make larger-than-life-sized sculptures, Feir built his own 3D touch probe, one of about a dozen he has built in the past decade, to scan molds he made from the casting process. He said the painstakingly slow process would take about three days. He still uses his own inventions as well as the newer, faster 3D laser scanner he recently purchased.

Feir also built a machine called a CNC (computer numerically controlled) 4-axis mill that turns the scans into an object by trimming pieces away. He uses expanded or extruded polystyrene and urethane foam for fine-detail work to make the object. It has the same result as a 3-D printer, but Feir explained that a 3-D printer is additive, meaning it adds bit by bit until an object is formed, whereas his machine is subtractive because it removes excess material.

“I designed and built it with a sole purpose of carving the human form from foam,” Feir said in an email. “I can change the scale of the carving with CAD software.”

To illustrate, he has a small face that could fit on the top of a nail head and the same large face that is about eight feet in length, both made using Feir’s machines.

Using the larger molds, Feir has been able to build oversized sculptures that have attracted much attention. One such piece from the collection hangs at Rice Diet Clinic in Durham. A woman who saw it there commissioned a piece for her Mercedes-Benz dealership in Puerto Rico where it still resides today.

“(Tell people to) come here if they want, meet the artists and see, not just me but other artists actually creating work,” Feir said regarding visitors to the studio location. “Anyone can go to a museum and see dusty paintings, but you come here you can actually see someone put paint on canvass, you can see someone welding stuff together, someone building furniture and hear that click, click, click.” !

WANNA go?

205 Collaborated is located at 205 Lyndon St., Greensboro. Email them at 205artists@gmail.com to arrange a time to visit. You can also see more of Feir’s work at 205collaborative.org or lawrencefeir. com.

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