Wetlands: Ibis Floodgate
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    Bronze Ibis and Floodgate form, referencing the Egyptian God Thoth, for the Eccles Wildlife Education Center at Farmington Bay on the Great Salt … Read More
    Bronze Ibis and Floodgate form, referencing the Egyptian God Thoth, for the Eccles Wildlife Education Center at Farmington Bay on the Great Salt Lake in Utah. Read Less
    Published:
The finished sculpture of "Wetlands" installed at the Eccles Wildlife Education Center at Farmington Bay, Utah. 
Ibis. Bronze and Wood. Egyptian. 600 BCE. Nelson Atkins Museum. Kansas City, MO.
Wetlands is a bronze sculpture of an Ibis merged with a floodgate created for the Eccles Wildlife Education Center at Farmington Bay in Utah and funded by a special dispensation from the Utah Department Of Wildlife through the Utah Public Art Program.  

Wetlands references ancient Egyptian Ibis sculptures of the god Thoth. These archaic Egyptian sculptures merged magnificent bronze heads, necks, and legs with bodies formed of wood or stone. The Ibis of Wetlands has a finely sculpted head and legs cast in bronze, with the body formed of an industrial floodgate.

The floodgate body emphasizes the crucial role of maintaining local wetlands for the millions of water foul that rely on the threatened watershed of the Great Salt Lake, and the conservation ethic of Farmington Bay: only through active freshwater management of manually operating 200 freshwater floodgates is the man-made Bay viable as avian habitat. Even though the Ibis were considered an aspect of the god Thoth, the Ibis went extinct on the Nile Delta in the 19th Century due to industrial scale human habitat destruction of wetlands and saline mudflats.

The Utah Great Salt Lake basin provides habitat for about 55,500 White Faced Ibis, more than half of the 100,000 Ibis in all of North America. Ibis are just one species of many, numbering millions of birds, that rely on this critical habitat along the Great Western Flyway of migration from South America to the Arctic. 

Wetlands honors Department of Wildlife Resources’ efforts to conserve the finite water resources to the Jordan River’s delta into Farmington Bay, standing as a signifier of human impacts and our local responsibility to actively engage in conservation.
On trips to Kansas City to visit family I always stop by the Nelson Atkins Museum, and they had just rebuilt their Egyptian / Greek / Mesopotamian section. The importance of animals both wild and domestic is always captivating, and the wonderful Ibis forms spoke to me across the ages...

 In Western history the iconic avian species of brackish wetlands is the Ibis-headed god Thoth. Thoth is The One god / the oldest Egyptian creator god / the only Egyptian self-created god; essential to maintaining the universe (credited with making the calculations for the establishment of the heavens, stars, Earth, and everything in them); the wisest of the gods- master of laws governing physical with moral/divine and the conveyance of these laws to mankind via writing/knowledge and is the scribe of the underworld (bill is like a pen); god of the moon (crescent moon is the curve of the Ibis’ beak).
Additional to images of Thoth in Hieroglyphics, sculptures, and sarcophagi, - millions of Ibis were captured/farmed for mummification and interred in ritual burial with people or in sacred sites.

Even though the Ibis were held in great regard, the Ibis went extinct on the Nile Delta in the 19th Century due to industrial scale human habitat destruction of Wetlands and Saline Mudflats.

Wetlands speaks in a Post-Modern language to reference the Egyptian cast bronze Ibis from 600 BCE, utilizing the Contemporary Art modus of Appropriation of the floodgate in tandem with the traditional Egyptian form. 



I made the finalist list for the commission, and set about creating a scale maquette in wood.
The committee liked the maquette so much, they will be adding it to the collection of the learning center at the new facility.
Narrow profile from the front and back.
Ibis Head. Bronze. Egyptian. 600 BCE. Nelson Atkins Museum. Kansas City, MO.
The head is isolated from the form and will act as the armature for the clay sculpture.
The finished clay sculpture has a different bill, as in researching I found Ibis skulls to work from that showed the correct curve and size ratio of the bill to the skull.
Seen from afar the Ibis looks black, but they are amazingly colorful in deep tones of bronze. The male in high plumage shows a bright white band of feathers around the bill/eye, while the fleshy brow line and eye line turn bright red. The plumage of the head and neck are bronzed browns with glowing hues of red and copper-orange, while the wings and back are copper-greens and can irredescently whiten to a shining stainless steel. The bill lightens to a gun-metal gray, or sandblasted stainless, or oxidized aluminum. The legs ripen to a deep sunburn. 
The legs are coming along. I like the approach taken by the Egyptian masters, but I have moved far from their stylization on the head. They have sat as a question mark for a few months while I finished out the latest round of Cutthroat Trout. Now the unprecedented June and July weeks on weeks of 100 to 107 degree heat are crushing me back into the studio to resolve the legs.   
Silicon molds with plaster backing for the head (L) and legs (R).  
A straight-forward mold process with a dowel added between the feet for structure and handling, with a similar dowel added to the head joining the beak to the neck.
With the original clay sculptures finished out, the next step is creating a brush-on silicon impression-mold backed by a hard shell of plaster as the mother-mold. Once accomplished I deliver the mold to the foundry and wait while they slurry wax into the molds. The thin wax forms are removed from the molds for inspection- the legs pulled clean enough to go on to the wax room for ceramic shell prep, but I take the head home for a few tweaks and return it the next day. 
All the parts cast clean and are ready for me to weld and chase. The frie inside the leg is from the foundry using a plasma cutter to remove a bronze pour gate.
The "windows" are removed in wax sprue for ceramic shell coverage and need to be refitted. I also requested a stainless steel rod be inserted into the beak prior to casting for added strength.
Welds must be clean of oxidation and impurities, and track the contour as closely as possible. That line has to disappear without needing additional touch-ups with the weld.
The oxidation occurs after the weld, effecting only the surface- I may have been welding at a higher amperage than needed. I brighten it off with a wire wheel so the contrast doesn't throw off my read of the weld to the leg. This weld blends in with a red pad on an angle grinder. 
Bronze is welded and chased!
The feathers are no longer disturbed by the weld line of the window.
Legs are ready for walkin'.
I skinned the wood original with clay to create the bronze, then cleaned the clay off after pulling the silicon mold as the wooden form will be displayed indoors at the Wildlife Education Center.
This is a Waterman C-10 Floodgate in stainless steel, cast iron (red & black), and bronze. It is a much sturdier gate than what is used to regulate the wetland estuary, as it will have to withstand the rigors of operation by elementary school students. 
I partly disassemble the gate to size it down by cutting off some length, then reassemble it.
Nora stands in for scale.
I disassemble the entire floodgate and paint the 5 cast iron parts in layers of different metallic colors to emulate the variance of bronze patina. The stainless steel is ground clean with ceramic discs on a special pneumatic tool made just for flat disk work. I also trim the long threaded riser and deburr both ends.
Next I will skin this with bronze square tubing, once our winter inversion comes into a safe range to be outside. pm2 @ 160
8' of bronze square tubing arrives from Denver, at nearly identical cost to rough-casting the Ibis. It is precisely enough material to border the stainless, if cut at a long taper. After cutting the bronze I weld the stainless structure as well as all the stainless bolts/nuts. The bronze tubing pairs are clamped together and welded to each other, then welded to the stainless.
This short run of bronze tubing provides the structural backing for affixing the Ibis head/neck.The long runs provide formal, rather than structural, cohesion.
Temporary basing mixed with what will be the final basing, all in stainless steel salvaged from sizing the water gate.
Threaded riser remainder is cut in half and welded under each foot- this will anchor in concrete at the site. These are tack welded to ss lengths removed from the watergate, I utilize the predrilled holes and galvinized bolts that I replaced with ss on the gate. This all lags to a wooden x of 2x4 and assorted remainders.
From this side the Ibis seems to float above the wood.
All bronze ends are welded closed, and the top L tip is beveled to allow the backward curve of the Ibis' neck.
TIG welding requires both hands, but I somehow tack the awkward slidey-slick forms without having to build a scaffold. Then I set a heavy bead.
Basing and affixing the legs took the course of the day. My mojo is fading and I am mapping compromises instead of jumping in with solutions, so time to shut it down for the day.
You see the snow falling outside. The storm has arrived.
Yesterday's snow squall brightens up the yard and I work with the shop door rolled open. The Ibis head went up easily.
Now the light is nearly gone, after a day of chasing and touch-up welds.
Nora thought we were done after I cleaned up, and now is impatient as I snap off a few images of the days progress: walkies!
Liking how the head joins the tubing, I will decide to smooth out all the welds to the stainless and the bolt welds, but not today.
Nearly disappears from the front.
Shadows casting brown on the gold foreshadow the future patina.
Patina complete with floodgate fully open. 
Patina complete with floodgate closed.
I wish I could keep him for the yard- the waterfall fits nicely in the window of the floodgate.
The bronze tubing was a specialty item, leftover from a bigger order that the company offered to me after I explained my project. The tubes were extruded with beveled edges, which provided the clean line down the back alluding folded wings.
The Ibis goes for a stroll around the yard.
The Ibis finds a possible nesting spot.
The nature facility is still under construction, but will soon be ready for the Ibis. The site is outdoors in a dry-wash educational creek-bed in the courtyard of the new facility overlooking Farmington Bay of the Great Salt Lake.
A friend volunteers to help me install the Ibis. The box forms the concrete footing, supported under ground with a concrete & rebar pillar dug with the postholer. The sculpture is supported with 2x4's as the concrete sets, and the sculpture's legs are wrapped in plastic to keep clean of cement.
The nature center is nearly completed and installation occurs in late May. Perfect weather to set things in place.
I return later in the week and remove the supports and box, carry three large boulders from a landscaping pile far away, and set in river stone to obscure the base. Then I wash and wax the sculpture.
The Ibis is walking up the dry-wash from the marshlands.
Visitors come from the parking lot, down the path between the earth-bermed buildings and the sculpture forms this singular line from the front view. I set it at a subtle angle to ensure the viewing angle, and animate the experience.
The locking bolt for the turn-wheel is secured with lock-tight, and the floodgate is ready to open and close.
This is the view to the West. The structure is a Blue Heron nesting complex, full of Blue Herons. On the water is a flock of White Pelicans. This marshland opens to Farmington Bay, connecting to the Great Salt Lake. Antelope Island is in the distance with its herd of Bison.
This is the view to the East with the North/South running foothills of the Wasatch range, once the shoreline of the vast Lake Bonneville. Most of Utah's human and avian population are crammed between these foothills and the Great Salt Lake, and Federal and State conservation efforts are the only reason any habitat remains. In recent years human demands on the dwindling watershed have dropped river levels below the access pipe to Farmington Bay, causing the entire bay to fall below the level of its causeway with the Great Salt Lake (which has retreated more than a mile from its regular shoreline) causing the stale water to overheat in the high desert summer resulting in a bay-wide bloom in toxic algae that kills all it touches and creates poisonous gasses. The same is now regularly occurring 40 miles to the south at Utah Lake. Keeping these marshlands viable requires adjusting 200 water gates to ensure the viability of the reserve.