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Sculptress Rankin shares research, creative process

Sculptress Linda White Rankin shared the clay-to-bronze journey of the 7-foot, hollow sculpture of Admiral James David Glasgow Farragut.

In a packed community and overflow room, she shared a slideshow of the process at Town Hall, Sunday afternoon, May 2.

“He was known for his lion-like courage,” Rankin said. “And often described as a gentle, great-soul man.”

Rankin wanted to depict those character traits in the sculpture, she said.

Rank, uniform and position were the three essential aspects of the commissioned piece.

She viewed well known and hard-to-find photos of Adm. Farragut so her sculpture would be as close to his actual likeness as possible.

“If you’re made a certain way, you’ll stand a certain way,” Rankin said.

However, the height of the sculpture is different from Farragut’s actual human height. The seven-foot sculpture is a much larger depiction of the five foot six and-a-half inch man.

Rankin wanted to sculpt Adm. Farragut when he was in his prime. In his later years, he had a weight problem, she said.

Adm. Farragut is intentionally hatless. After researching what it means for an admiral to be without a hat, Rankin chose to make a statement for Adm. Farragut.

“[Hatless] indicates he wants to be a part of the community,” Rankin said.

Since he was born just down the road at Stoney Point, and he is the community’s namesake, it suited the sculpture, she said.

“The birds are gonna see more of [the statue’s detail]. We never will. But it’s there,” Rankin said with a laugh.

Farragut was a fencer, so the sculpture needed a sword.

Everything was approved by a special committee assigned to the piece, checking for accuracy, aesthetics and overall presentation for placement on Town Hall’s plaza.

Rankin began with a “small clay” phase of the sculpture.

After much research and many checks, she moved to “large clay.”

Her husband, Jim, designed an aluminum armature, used beneath the clay.

Rankin chose a foundry in Long Island, N.Y., after sculpting the clay.

The Rankins drove the piece to Long Island at 1 a.m., taking precautions against a traffic accident.

Farragut’s head was detachable, and Rankin sculpted it more along the way from Knoxville to Long Island in the front seat.

At the foundry, the clay was covered with black rubber and plaster.

Rankin made dozens of trips during the two-year process.

There were roughly 10 steps taken overall: clay, moldmaking, wax, chasing, spruing, slurry, burnout, pouring, metal chasing and patina.

Inconsistencies were checked with the original clay piece brought from Knoxville.

The patina process involved brushing chemicals on the bronze, torching it and repeating the process.


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