For over 30 years, Ursula von Rydingsvard (b. 1965) has been making monumental sculptures. The artist spent her childhood in Nazi slave-labor and postwar refugee camps in pre-industrial Poland: eight different camps over the course of five years. These, her earliest memories, infiltrate her work as her sculptures reveal the trace of the human hand. At times the artist’s sculptures resemble humble objects objects – such as her collection of household vessels, and environments that demonstrates an interest in the point where the human-made meets nature.
For MIT, Von Rydingsvard has built a towering structure, creating intricate networks of individual beams, shaped by sharp and lyrical cuts and fused together to form rich, dynamic surfaces. Her take on abstraction with references to nature, the human body and memory make her work so potent, and perfect as installed outside of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research.
Enjoy this video that explains how the artist and her team created this sculpture in a fascinating multistep process from cedar model to bronze casting.
Von Rydingsvard’s “SCIENTIA” is among her most ambitious sculptures to date, at approximately 24 feet tall and over 17,000 pounds. In creating the work, the artist first produced a wood model in her studio using 4×4-inch cedar beams milled for the construction industry. Using circular saws and a range of cutting tools, she sliced, marked, and shaped the wood elements, then stacked them to create layers that were glued and screwed into place. The full-scale wood model was then transported to Polich Tallix Fine Art Foundry (founded by Richard Polich SM ’65), where the majority of the sculpture was sand cast while the delicate filigree sections were cast using the lost-wax technique. Von Rydingsvard patinated the bronze surface by hand with chemicals and a blow torch.