We at TSD are celebrating the end of 2011 with the year’s best posts. It’s been a year filled with great stories and strong opinions, always reflecting the best of the First State.
ORIGINAL PUBLISHING DATE: June 22, 2011
I recently went to visit Andre Harvey’s gallery in Breck’s Mill (downstream on the Brandywine from The Hagley Museum in Wilmington, Delaware). It is on the top floor of Breck’s Mill and has amazing views over the Brandywine River. Every time I go into Andre’s gallery I end up spending at least 45 minutes just walking around and looking at all of his amazing bronze sculptures. Each time I’m there, I’m just as much in awe of his work as the first time I saw one of his pieces (Floyd’s Finest) for the first time many years ago.
Andre was kind enough to answer some questions for me about his history as a sculptor and the Brecks Mill Gallery for this story. I would also like to thank Bobbie Harvey, Andre’s wife, for taking the time to meet with me at the gallery and in their home. Bobbie provided me with the opportunity to gain a greater appreciation for Andre’s craft and artistic abilities. Please visit Dilwyne Designs blog to read posts about Andre Harvey’s sculpture (Samara turning with the Wind) at Mt. Cuba and Bobbie and Andre Harvey’s home.
How and when did you start working with sculpture?
My post college (University of Virginia (BA in English)) working world lasted only 6 years. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do in life, and it bothered me a lot. I wanted to be free. I had so much overtime in my heart- attack writing job in New York City that Bobbie and I were able to take three months leave. We hitchhiked all over Europe and the quest for freedom became even stronger.
Three years later (at the ages of 27), we burned our bridges and took one way passages to Europe. What seemed like “running away” to most people was actually a “running toward”. I was determined to find my direction.
We hitchhiked a lot again “on the road” and then settled in Paris. We bought an old car (a 1955 Citroen Traction Avant that I still have) for the equivalent of $140 and took it on its maiden voyage to Morocco. From Morocco, we vaguely headed toward Yugoslavia stopping for a mail drop in Cannes.
While in that area, we chanced upon Vallauris, a small French pottery village on the Cote d’Azure where Picasso had moved to in 1946 and brought back to life with his ceramic and clay masterpieces.
We spotted a small shop with abstract welded sculpture in the window. I turned to Bobbie and said that this is what I want to do in life, make sculpture. It was my epiphany. I had found my direction.
In my poor French, I asked the sculptor and his wife, if we could work with him. They spoke no English and had no extra money to employ us. Not wanting to lose the opportunity, I said we’d work for lunches. They found us a small, inexpensive house in a lemon tree grove. The green and yellow of that grove much later became our catalogue graphic colors.
I learned how to weld in French, and Bobbie helped the sculptor’s wife produce her pottery. This was the beginning of my artistic journey and my second “lucky star” in life, the first one being meeting Bobbie.
Did you begin working with bronze from the beginning or did you use different mediums first? Where did you study and train during the beginning of your career?
I started by casting my clay sculptures in fiberglass because I couldn’t afford to cast them in bronze (my goal). Once I could afford the expensive, labor intensive bronze lost wax casting process, I never looked back.
Where did you study and train during the beginning of your career?
I was totally focused on learning. It was a much higher level of learning than I had ever experienced. I was passionately hooked on sculpture and nothing would or could stop me. I learned all areas of foundry work ( tig, mig, gas welding, silver soldering, mold making, wax reworking, etc.) so I could make my castings to the best of my ability. Bobbie went back to work so that I could do it all.
When did you move into the Breck’s Mill Gallery space? It is so beautiful and such a compliment to your spectacular body of work.
We moved into Breck’s Mill in 1977. The beautiful mill building was built in 1814 and once made woolen products. The stonework
Can you tell me the stories behind: Helen, Bertha and the Cow with the “Cowbirds” on its back? Where did your inspirations come from for these pieces and how long did you study your subjects? Knowing your fondness for all animals, do you ever get emotionally attached to your subjects?
Helen ( large sitting pig): I studied “Helen” at the U. of PA’s New Bolton Center, thanks to Bobbie who worked there as lab technician researching leukemia in animals. Helen lived outside in a large mud hole with about 7 other large pigs. I bribed the pigs with corn so they would get used to me and allow me in their territory so I could get to know them. I did a smaller sculpture (“The Portrait Sitter”) first, and later enlarged it to life size. A “Helen” bronze lives nearby at The Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA.
The idea for the cow sculpture (“Carolyn with Cattle Egrets”) came from my childhood experiences growing up in then rural Pocopson, near Chadds Ford PA. As a small boy, I thought it interesting that the egrets liked to ride on the cow’s backs. As an adult, I found out it was all about making a symbiotic living: the walking cow stirs up insects that the egrets eat. I liked it better the first way.
It’s not unusual for some of my larger subjects to take over a year to make. I guess the reason I study my subjects so closely for so long is I want to capture more than their “look”. I want to get their more elusive “feel.” To me, that is when a sculpture is successful, be it animal, human, or object.
One of your sculptures was designed after a chicken that belonged to my grandfather. Can you tell me a little about the story behind Floyd’s Finest?
“Floyd’s Finest” (gamecock): Floyd was a famous (in those circles) gamecocker who worked for your grandfather. Floyd was a special person, a rare breed, most of whom are now extinct. Once he trusted me, he loaned me his finest gamecock to study for the sculpture.
Do you have any new pieces that you will be releasing soon?
I will be coming out with five new bronze sculptures this fall.