By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The University of Mississippi hosted a public pouring Friday afternoon, but it involved neither beverages nor baptism.
The event showed off the art department’s foundry, which was first used last spring.
“We invited the public to come and do a scratch block to see the process,” said Durant Thompson, assistant professor of art, who oversaw pouring two 50-pound batches of 1,300-degree aluminum.
The foundry is the newest part of the art department’s metals studio.
“The school decided they wanted to have a foundry about seven years ago,” Thompson said. “We had to get a facility that was proper and safe enough to do this kind of program.”
The pour started with firing a crucible of flagpole scraps in the gas-fired foundry that lies mostly beneath the concrete floor of an open building behind Meek Hall.
Students clad in protective leather garments, hard hats and face shields used a complex set of tongs to lift the orange-hot crucible onto a flat stone. Two of the artists used a long pole with a single shaft on one end and two handles on the other and a ring in the middle, to lift and pour as other students stood ready to shovel sand on any spills.
Although most participants in Friday’s pouring were fine arts students, many of the designs scratched or imprinted into the flat sand-and-clay squares were whimsical, reflecting the primacy of process over product in the lesson.
“I did a happy-sad face today. It was just something different,” said ceramics major Reagan Thames of Jackson. “I’m in intermediate sculpture, so it was required for our class project.”
Andrew McIntyre, also a ceramics major from Jackson, furnished aluminum for the exercise. “I support them because they support us, and it’s just fun when there’s fire.”
Oxford resident Marian Barksdale, who had a casting made from her design, said, “It’s really fascinating to see how it’s done.”
Laura Elizabeth Mullen, a graduate student in fine arts from the University of Georgia, said metalcasting’s cooperative nature is one of its attractions.
“It seems we’re all in it together,” she said. “There’s a painter in his studio, painting by himself, and that’s fine and totally respectable, but I love the community (aspect) and talking about art.”