How the Alice Sculpture Began

In 2011,  Amy Freeman of Freeman Design Associates was working with Jerry Rubenstein on signage for the newly named Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center. She contacted sculptor Bridgette Mongeon about a possible sculpture of Evelyn for the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center. The Rubensteins were looking for an artist to create a bronze sculpture of their mother for the Jewish Community Center. Bridgette documented the creation of Evelyn on a website blog. The Rubensteins and Amy came to her studio, and they all hit it off. At this time, the Rubensteins were also talking about a possible second sculpture of Evelyn for a park. The artist’s focus was on the sculpture for the Jewish Community Center, but she was curious about this mention of a sculpture for a park.

When wooing a client, it is important to do just that. Bridgette Mongeon often expresses how grateful she is for the days spent in advertising and public relations before she was a sculptor. Putting together specialty gifts are the type of things an advertising agency would do to try and win a client. At least it was in the old days. Christina Sizemore of Diliberto Photo and Design, the artist’s daughter helped Bridgette put this presentation together, and she did a great job. Bridgette sent it to the client when she was anxiously waiting for a decision on the project. It is all in the presentation.

Over the many visits to her studio, Jerry and Linda would share artwork and artists that they discovered. Bridgette assumed these were ideas for the park. One such piece was the Alice In Wonderland sculpture in central park. Over the years, she has received numerous photographs from the Rubensteins of this sculpture, but she has yet to see it for herself. Her wheels began to turn about Alice. She was delighted to find that the story and illustrations were in the public domain. She was even more delighted to find that the story would be celebrating 150 years in 2015. She immediately purchased an The Annotated Alice,which features both stories of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Later she purchased another copy of the annotated Alice. She created a book mark, with the most recent image suggested for the park, strung charms of a tea party to it and presented it to Jerry. Her daughter who is the owner of  Diliberto Photo and Design helped. She had so much fun searching for all of these elements and putting them together in this very classy package.

Early on she made a bookmark, strung it with charms about the story and presented it along with the book to her client. Securing a great commission like this take a lot of time and finesse.

She has sculpted quite a few deceased loved ones. It is her specialty, and she develops a certain connection to the loved ones. In 2014 the Texas Country Reporter came out and created a wonderful segment on this part of her artwork. You can see it on this YouTube video. You could say when doing this type of artwork… she develops a relationship with the deceased, and though she had never known Evelyn, she became friends with her as she created the sculpture for the Jewish Community Center.

The scene has gone through several modifications and sizes. 1. digital sketch for client to get the feel for my idea. 2. Digital sketch enlarging characters 3. The clay sculpted maquettes added to the scene and sized proportionately to each other. These last scene is the truest to how the large scene will look, but it continues to morph and change.

Not long after beginning the sculpture of Evelyn in 2012 she began to create digital designs to present to the Rubensteins. She had several designs that she spent hours on and never presented. The one design that had her was Alice. She just kept coming back to Alice.

The interesting thing is that, originally the Rubensteins did not want just a random sculpture, they wanted another portrait of Evelyn. Over time, Bridgette’s thoughts about Alice and her friends won the heart of the Rubensteins. The sculpture has morphed between she and her client, will be a destination spot when people come to Houston.  Visitors will enjoy the interaction and the most coveted dining experience in Texas. Evelyn would be proud for all that it represents, family, imagination, literature, creativity, and fun.

Over the next three years, Bridgette modified the designs, and Alice grew from a life-size sculpture to a monumental sculpture with the mad hatter being 8-9 feet tall. At one point she and the Rubensteins talked about making the table much, much larger to accomodate more guests, but instead they brought the size down to this intimate size. Originally she had designed the sculpture to be a mix of materials-bronze and faux bois. Faux bois is concrete that is made to look like wood. The table and benches would be this faux bois. The first designs of the project were going to be a collaboration between Bridgette and two master faux bois artists Donald Tucker and Cindee Klement. The work of these masters is nothing less than yummy, but the client changed the material, desiring all bronze.

Bridgette had felt that an additional bronze of Evelyn watching the adventures in wonderland with the Rubensteins beloved dog would have been a nice addition to the scene. She still would like to see it, and is sorry it was removed from the scene, but still very happy for all the great creations that has made it in. Digital Concept

In the last of the project designs, Bridgette had created and suggested an additional sculpture of Evelyn on a faux bois bench petting a large grey poodle. The Rubensteins had just lost their long time furry companion and because she loves dogs and also specialize in pet memorials. She thought this might be a good addition to the park. She still hope that one day this additional piece will be added to the park. She loves the idea of Evelyn sitting back and watching everything that was taking place in her special wonderland, and she thought kids would love to interact with the dog as much as the other art. But budget and time were an issue, and they narrowed it down to the characters, table, benches, and podium with the book. To sculpt all of this in such a short amount of time is still a massive undertaking. You can watch the creation of this through this blog and the Finding Alice Facebook Page

The idea of hiding things in the wood was an early decision of the artist. At first she was not going to tell anyone. When she found out it was the 150th anniversary of the story, the “150” becomes a personal challenge for her. Plus, after reading the annotated Alice she realized there were so many hidden things in Lewis Carroll’s original story that she would have much from which to choose. She is delighted to be writing two books on this project one about he process from start to finish and documenting all of the technology used in the creation. The Alice Process book will be very similar to her new book coming called 3D Technology in Fine Art and Craft: Exploring 3D Printing, Scanning, Sculpting and Milling. Unlike the 3D Tech in Fine art book, which features artists and work  from all over the world, this new book will feature just the art and technology used in Alice, She can’t wait to show you, as it is pretty incredible.

The tree stump with the dedication plaque in the shape of the book is the other main element to this scene. Here is where the treasure hunt begins. Many things will be hiding in this.

The other book she will create, after the sculpture is done being sculpted and off to the foundry, is a field guide written in Rhyme and riddle. It is about the 150 hidden elements. Note: this does not mean just 150 hidden things. There are meanings behind the pieces that are a part of the hidden elements. So, take out your  Annotated Alice,and watch the process of creating this sculpture. You will have to brush up on these things to be able to completely fill in all of the spaces in the field guide. She will talk about that more on that in a later blog post.

A design is only a design. An artist must sell the idea to their client, and help their client to become so much a part of the creative process that they are invested. In the a case like “Move One Place On” for Evelyn’s Park, which is the title of this sculpture, there are many other things that play a part in when a job can begin. There were committee meetings, city council, permits, budgets, revising designs, modifying estimates, finding vendors, etc, etc. Many of these things were totally out of the artist’s hands. All these needed to be taken care of before things could be finalized with the sculpture. These final details took place on July 3rd,

That means that Bridgette worked for three years on designs, proposals, presentations, budgets, estimates, and revised estimates, enlargements, and changes. She had thought and proclaimed that the project would start “next month” for these three years.  There were so many hold ups that she was sure all of her friends and family thought she had made the entire commission up. Believe me, she like Alice, began to wonder if it were all just a part of a dream. She is elated to pronounce that the project officially began on July 3, 2015 the day before the actual 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland. What a fitting tribute.

So now you know the morphing and history of this project. Stay tuned to the blog and to the Finding Alice Page to see how we progress from here. If you have not seen the YouTube video on the project, it describes some of the ins and outs of the project and technology better than can be explained right here. Get ready… this should be a curious adventure. Thanks for coming down the rabbit hole with me.

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