Saint Andrews artist has sculpture added to provincial collection

(Ann Manuel photo) Alanna Baird at work in the print studio.

SAINT ANDREWS – An artist from Saint Andrews will see one of her works added to the collectionArtNB provincial art collection.

The provincial collection numbers nearly 1,000 works and “serves as a testament to New Brunswick’s impressive legacy of visual culture,” said Tourism, Heritage and Culture Minister Tammy Scott-Wallace in a release announcing the additions for 2023.

Acquisitions occur every two years and 23 new works were added in 2023. Alanna Baird’s Sea Urchin #7, a cast bronze sculpture, was selected to the collection.

The technique she used is called lost wax cast bronze. The artist creates a wax object, then covers it in a ceramic shell. They heat the shell and the wax melts away. Molten metal is then poured into the ceramic mould, which takes the shape of the former wax object. Once the metal has hardened, the ceramic is broken and the metal sculpture is worked to file away any excess or unwanted material, polished and a patina can be applied.

“It’s a very multi-step process,” said Baird. Baird created the wax from a piece of pottery she made more than 30 years ago. She created a silicone mould of the pottery piece and cast the wax in the silicone. She had several pottery pieces of sea urchins.

“It took a long time but I wasn’t doing just one. I was working on a series of sea urchins,” based on several pottery works.

This isn’t the first acquisition of Baird’s in the provincial collection. She recollects the other may have been a ceramic she did in the 1980s.

Baird is a multidisciplinary artist who does printmaking, metal sculpture and pottery. Another outlet for her metal work is creating fish from found objects. She said the move from pottery to metal work was natural at the time in 1991 when she had teenage children.

“If you are halfway through working a ceramic piece and have to go away and do something else, it doesn’t wait for you to come back, it just dries out,” she said. Metal, on the other hand, would just sit and wait until she could get back to the studio.

Working with different media allows her to cross-pollinate ideas. She uses a plasma cutter to cut scales for her fish, “but I brought that into the print studio by using it to cut copper plates and getting a very rough, uneven edge on a printing plate.” Conversely, she takes etching techniques from her printmaking and applies those to her metal sculpture as a surface treatment.

“It’s just a bigger toolbox.”

The sea floor is Baird’s biggest source of inspiration. Her home and studio are near the shore in Saint Andrews and she will spend time walking the tidal flats looking for interesting things to take pictures of that may feed her creativity. Sometimes she’ll find objects that could be useful in a work. After a recent storm washed out some of the beach area, she found an arrowhead sticking out of the sand that had been buried.

“I recently gifted (the arrowhead) to the Passamaquoddy Nation,” she said.

She also learns from listening to others.

“When your friends happen to work in marine science, you learn stuff vicariously that you don’t really realize you’re absorbing it.”

All the forms of inspiration come out in her work in some way. She has begun working with a 3D plastic pen to create sculptures, some of which are embellished with plastic sleeves from acupuncture needles.

“I keep looking at things. What can I do with that?”

Baird used a grant from ArtsNB under its Creation program to explore work in bronze.

The new acquisitions will tour the province later this year or early in 2024.

Robert Fisher

Fisher is a writer/author, photographer and filmmaker. Itinerant observer of life. His dog, Lincoln, is a travel companion and has been coast-to-coast with him four times.