fixing mcfinney

i have the good fortune to have been asked to fix some damage to one of the dolphin i did for the georgia aquarium last year.  it seems some kids got a little rambunctious and tried to dismantle my sculpture, for which they can’t be blamed, because if i were a kid and was allowed to get close enough to something like this, i would try to wrench something off, just to see how well it was fastened on.

in better days

more credit to the putty and glue i used than anything else, the pieces were not wrenched completely off, just broken and bent.  so i won’t actually have to dismantle anything much, which is good, because a redo of any real kind would mean a complete redo, and that wouldn’t be worth it.  i might as well start over.  but this sculpture wasn’t damaged nearly beyond repair.

a word, because i did this a year ago, and there’s no way you would have read those posts because you’re just here looking up something odd and happened to chance finding it here.  backpage and try another result, and thanks for stopping by.

this was a project i was commissioned to do for the georgia aquarium’s fundraiser and community-builder, dolphins on parade.  this is part of a nationwide public-art effort which you’ve probably seen in your city at some point.  large fiberglass sculptures of something – a cow, a mermaid, a baseball, a bear, a dolphin.  various organizations select whatever they feel like out of a very wide range of choices, or they commission their own animal.  then the fundraising organization puts out a call for artists and we submit samples and ideas, and participating sponsors select these, and contact us with their ideas.  then we pick up a blank fiberglass sculpture, do our thing, and return it for its final professional topcoat before being put on display and then auctioned off or sold to the commissioning sponsors.  it’s a winning idea for everybody, and the public loves it.

unfortunately, the first time i went out to begin repairing my dolphin, the lads were just packing him to go off and decorate a jobfair.  you can see him in the front of the truck, wrapped in plastic, his white hardhat visible.  so i came back the next week, which was today.  and visited with friends for a few moments, and then got to work.

i’d noticed this damage when i first saw him, still on display at the aquarium and in full contact with a million kids a day.  i’m not sure what it is, maybe bubble gum?  maybe some sort of paper slapped on after it rained.  maybe some damage they tried to repair while it was still at the aquarium.  i don’t know.  but it scraped right off with a fingernail, and didn’t leave too much of a scar.  i’ll still have to spend time touching it up.

this is the part that was damaged the most.  it’s the pump.  this is the bit that i got as a gift from the folks in the life support systems department at the aquarium:  their own special sculpture for a halloween pumpkin carving contest.  which means i had no idea what exactly they made it out of, which means i can’t exactly replace it.  especially the missing handle, to the right, where that black bit sticks up out of the gray and orange ring.  i’m going to have to build one out of putty.  and attach it.

i had to peel the green ring off the metal washer that they used to make the impeller part of the pump.

here’s where i mixed up a bit of epoxy putty and stuck it on over the metal washers.  i had to do this on both sides.

and this is the part that had to be completely rebuilt.  what you’re looking at is the end result with bits of plastic bag tied around the joints to stabilize it while the glue dries.  where you see the actual pvc is where i had to chip off the putty coating, which i thought was going to work really well, and would have, if it hasn’t been kicked and jumped on and climbed on and kicked by 20,000 kids.

you can see that it’s a complicated run of pipes, rising off the spindle in the center, taking a 90-degree turn and arching up and over and down and then running on to make another connection, and in all there are four separate pipe bits that have to be glued back together.

they’re setting now, and when i go back to them i’ll have to use putty to build a surface around them, further gluing them together and making the structure stable.  everything’s gong to have to be repainted.

one of the things i didn’t do when i was making mcfinney is to give him glasses.  i didn’t know how to make them look right.  but after mckenney’s took possession of him and could be assured nobody would rip them off his head, they found an extra-large set of safety glasses and fit them on, and it looked so nice that i decided to glue them on.  it’s going to be a precarious job, because there are only four contact points, but if nobody tries to take them off they should stay on okay.  unless they bundle him too tight in plastic wrap when they take him out to a trade show.

i went around with a bit of putty and filled in the worst of the gouges at the base.  being the base, it wasn’t ever finished too well, not from the fiberglass shop and not in my hands.  so there are uneven edges all around the base.  but these were big chunks missing out of the side, with fiberglass strands showing and everything.  after going over the patches with a wet finger, they felt  nice and smooth, and they’ll paint over and you’ll never be able to see them.

i plan to go back on friday of this week, and several time next week, to finish him.  so i left a sign on his roll of plans, and i hope some of the folks who work there will be interested in the process.


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