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Kimberly Redding likes to say she spent a month this summer “playing Michelangelo.”
That’s how Redding, a senior fine arts major in Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, describes her experience participating in the 2019 Digital Stone Project Workshop for marble sculptors, June 1-30 at the Garfagnana Innovazione in Grammolazzo, Lucca, Italy.
Michelangelo was an Italian High Renaissance sculptor, painter, architect and poet who created some of the world’s most famous marble sculptures, including David and the Pietà.
Redding applied to the program last February and was one of 28 artists from the United States and other countries chosen to participate. She and other sculptors convened in Italy, where they chose marble from the same quarry where Michelangelo found material for his David masterpiece, and used their own 3-D digital designs, a 7-Axis CNC mill, and hand finishing techniques to make their sculptures.
They worked in the outdoors, under tents, cutting, shaping, and finishing their pieces.
She received $5,000 from the Garcia Family Foundation Scholarship for Barrett Honors College students to use toward trip expenses. Redding also took advantage of the Project Fund Scholarship offered to all Barret Honors students.
“From the bottom of my heart, I truly appreciate everything that Barrett, The Honors College has done for me. I was able to play Michelangelo with the funds from my scholarship that the Garcia Family Foundation so graciously bestowed upon me,” she said.
Redding’s journey to Italy really started years ago when her husband, Robert, encouraged her to attend Chandler Gilbert Community College Pecos campus. A non-traditional student, she spent five semesters at CGCC and was awarded the Arizona Board of Regents Academic Team Tuition Scholarship and selected for the 2018 All-Arizona Academic Team. This designation and scholarship allowed Redding to transfer into ASU and Barrett Honors College.
At ASU, she chose to major in fine art and a minor in psychology, with an eye toward becoming an art therapist. She is a transfer student ambassador and speaks to members of Phi Theta Kappa at community colleges about her transition into the university, opportunities at ASU and Barrett Honors College, and scholarships available to transfer students.
While in a jewelry design class at the university last year, a classmate told her about the Digital Stone Project.
“My mouth dropped to the floor. I said to my fellow student, Maya Barton, ‘I must do that!’ I thought it would be an amazing opportunity,” she said.
And an amazing opportunity it was. Redding’s Barrett Honor’s College academic advisor Christopher Floyd collaborated with Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts President’s Professor Mary Neubauer to create a summer six-credit DSP workshop class for Redding.
The workshop included 27 nights at a hotel in Gramolazzo, breakfast, lunches and dinners with fellow student artists and program faculty, guided tours of Lucca, Pietrasanta, Florence, and Focolaccia’s Quarry, the source of the three-foot square piece of marble Redding used for her sculpture.
Redding encountered three setbacks in her month-long project, an ocean-themed sculpture with an octopus tentacle rising up from a breaking wave and holding a 16-inch amethyst sphere.
First, the mill did not sculpt most of the suction cups or the “seat” for the amethyst to cradle in, creating a time management issue. The concern was that the piece would not be completed in time for the gallery exhibition scheduled for the end of the workshop.
Redding entered project manager mode and pencil drew 43 suction cups and the breaking wave on the marble. She separated each major task into an eight-hour project and finished her sculpture with time to spare.
Set back number two came from a drill she purchased from a tool vendor. Redding didn’t notice oil leaking from it as she began to drill into her marble.
“Marble is a sponge and if the oil is allowed to stay, the piece is ruined. Luckily, my screams grabbed the attention of one of the quarry men who ran over with bleach and torn sheets to suck up the oil. Twenty four hours of soaking and my sculpture is ready to be carved again,” Redding wrote on an Instagram post, describing the incident.
Finally, there was a vertical crack in the marble that was visible in her sculpture. She was able to sand it down, lessening its appearance on the surface of the piece.
Her sculpture, named Mina! (Mine! In Italian) turned out to weight about 300 pounds. Redding described the piece this way:
“Demonstrative nautical inspirations are present in Mina!, with poise amongst reality and a world of caprice. Action in repose, Mina! implies the octopus’ attempt to plunge into the oceanic depths before the last tentacle has the ability to grasp her newly found discovery of the amethyst sphere; abiding the breaking wave. Mina! is an internal argument between one’s dangerously persistent appetite for treasure and the welfare of survival. “
Mina! was moved to the Via Bertelli Gallery, Forte de Marmi, Lucca, Italy, for the gala to mark the end of the summer program. She remains at the gallery on display and available for purchase. If Mina! is not purchased in Italy, the sculpture will be brought to another exhibition in Florida and may possibly end up in the Phoenix Art Museum sometime this fall or winter, Redding said.
Redding documented her Digital Stone Project experience on Instagram at fineartbykimberly. She hopes to return to Italy to do more marble sculpting in the future.