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creating new sculptural references

The sculptural references used in studio art education today are still based almost exclusively on antique Greco-Roman masterpieces. Not only are the figures seen in these materials exclusively white, but they are also hyper-idealized and overwhelmingly male.

BustEd is an initiative toward the creation of new sculptural references for use in the classroom. In collaboration with sculptor Morgan Yacoe, new plaster busts depicting a diversity of humanity are being produced and promoted.

the importance of representation

Merriam-Webster defines the idiom to put/place (someone) on a pedestal as: "to think of someone as a perfect person with no faults; to admire someone greatly." This turn of phrase literally refers to the idea of a piece of classical statuary sitting atop its plinth. Culturally, then, we understand these works to represent ideal human beauty, so much so that the notion is embedded in our language.

We also conflate these artworks with their subjects: we understand first that the sculptures represent beauty and perfection, and then we see that the people represented belong to a single ethnicity, and possess a single body type. When we internalize these facts as inextricable from one another, we forgo the opportunity for any human body outside this narrow demographic to be culturally valued through the lens of fine art.

With BustEd, we recognize the need to place all of humanity on pedestals, to elevate their worth through studio art and its education, as essential to the liberation of beauty itself. 

 

Sculptor Morgan Yacoe at work in her studio

Two Black high school students draw from the cast collection at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia

a brief history

Plaster casts of classical Greek and Roman statuary are used in art academies around the world as teaching aids in studio art education. There have been different reasons for their use over time, however. Historically, instructors valued that their students could have access to copies of masterpieces which ordinarily could only be studied while traveling abroad, such as the famous Laocoön marble housed in the Vatican, or The Winged Victory at the Louvre. Some scholars felt that it was important for young artists to cultivate and maintain a strong lineage to the Great Masters of the past. 

 

Today, plaster busts often serve a more humble role as an intermediary step, as students begin to grapple with human anatomy and likeness in their artwork. This happens after students have had experience with the still life, but usually prior to working from the nude model.