FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 2, 2015
Former area artist involves Buffalo in a curious adventure celebrating Alice in Wonderland’s 150th Anniversary.
This year the world celebrates the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Sculptor Bridgette Mongeon, a former area resident of North Tonawanda and Kenmore, has cause to celebrate as the artist’s notoriety is growing with Alice.
Bridgette is known for her bronzes of children, and her sculptures of such entertainers as B. B. King, Willie Nelson and Bill Monroe. Over the years, her work has gotten bigger. She has been commissioned to create school mascots such as the larger than life Prairie View Panther for Prairie View A & M Texas, and a fifteen-foot tiger for Grambling State University, Grambling Louisiana. Her work has also been a bit “out of this world” as she will be creating a sculpture of Neil Armstrong as a gift to Russia. Bridgette states that her newest commission of a monumental sculpture of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is the most curiously creative and wonderful adventure of all.
Tea party for eight- no reservations necessary! The Jerry and Maury Rubenstein Foundation commissioned the sculpture, in honor of their mother, Evelyn. The scene will be a larger than life size bronze that the Bridgette will install at Evelyn’s Park in Bellaire, Texas just outside of Houston.
Bridgette uses both traditional sculpture and digital processes to create her artwork. She has dual cause to celebrate as she is also debuting her new book, “3D Technology in Fine Art and Craft: Exploring 3D Printing, Scanning, Sculpting and Milling”. The book is a number one new release on Amazon and is coming out Sept 2015. In this book, she describes the digital and traditional processes that she and other artists all over the world are using in their art. She will incorporate these same processes in her sculpture of The Mad Hatter Scene. You could say that Alice no longer needs mushrooms or cake to grow. In Bridgette’s Wonderland, Alice and her friends change size digitally using such things as the Next Engine 3D laser scanner, and digital sculpting programs such as Zbrush. These tools helped her obtain a digital model that she sent to vendors who milled the art with a Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) milling machines. Alice and her friends got big as they were milled in foam to eight feet tall. The artist then carves on the large foam pieces, and the ten-foot table, adding fine layer of clay and more detail before making molds that will be shipped to Shidoni Foundry in New Mexico for bronze casting. The installation and unveiling of this sculpture in Evelyn’s Park is scheduled for late 2016.
Bridgette titled the sculpture, “Move One Place On.” The title is what the Mad Hatter beckons at the tea party. She hopes visitors will develop a tradition of shouting the proclamation and change places at the bronze table as they visit the sculpture.
Bridgette is as passionate about education and literature as she is about sculpting, writing, and technology. “I love inspiring others.” States Mongeon. She is writing a new book documenting her process of using fine art and technology with Alice and her friends.
On September 30th, she will be inspiring the youth of Kenmore West as she visits her high school to speak to the students about the combination of art, literature, technology, math and science. She will also invite some of the students down the rabbit hole. She 3D scanned her grandmother’s (Tekla Shipman from North Tonawanda) antique teacups using a laser scanner. Then she sent the digital file of a teacup to the students of Kenmore West. Kenmore West’s art teacher David Rogalski will help the students to enhance the flowers on the teacup digitally using a digital sculpting program called Mudbox. Members of the maker space, The Buffalo Lab have volunteered to help the students if they need assistance in enhance the teacup before it is 3D printed. Upon completion, the students will send their collaborative artwork to Bridgette at her Texas studio, and she will add their cup to the tea party scene before she casts the sculpture in bronze. Mongeon loves the idea that the kids can feel like they played a part in this bronze sculpture.
The Texas sculpture will have even more connections to the Buffalo area. A friend of Bridgette’s posed for the body of the Mad Hatter, but Bridgette will pull from the reference photographs in memory of a beloved family member. Her former brother in law Jack Rzadkiewicz of Buffalo will be her inspiration for the Hatter.
In honor of the sesquicentennial, Mongeon is also creating, and hiding 150 different elements within the scene, inviting park visitors on an interactive journey. If you arrive at the sculpture with your lunch and the best dinning experience is occupied you can begin the treasure hunt searching for the 150 elements. For example, if guests look carefully, they may find a small Humpty Dumpty hiding, and the waiting White Queen tucked into the bronze “bark” legs of the table and benches. (Note the face of the waiting white queen is in memory of another Buffalonian- the artist’s mother, Barbara Ingersoll.) The sculpture and Evelyn’s Park, located in Bellaire, will be a “destination spot” for visitors to the Houston area. Lewis Carroll fans worldwide will come to experience the endearing story of Alice in Wonderland.
Besides her inspirational presentation at Kenmore west, Bridgette will be speaking at Penn State Behrand, and then returning to the Buffalo area. The Buffalo Lab Maker space in The Foundry will host a lecture by the artist. There she will show her work, the new book and the Alice in Wonderland project. The lab will also have some demonstrations of the 3D printing process and tours of their facility. Join her on the curious adventure Thursday October 1st at the 7:00 pm. The Buffalo Lab is located at 298 Northampton St, Buffalo NY 14208 inside The Foundry.
You can follow the project of creating Alice on the artist’s blog at http://www.creativescupture.com/blog or at the finding Alice Facebook page.
–For more information about this press release contact Bridgette Mongeon 713-540-3201
–Watch this YouTube Video to see the sculpture and process https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1J821vwkr8
–For information about Evelyn’s Park http://evelynspark.org/
–Evelyn’s Park press release
How long have you been an artist?
Ever since I could pick up a crayon. My first commission was at Grant School in North Tonawanda. I was in kindergarten; the teacher gave me the hall bulletin board to create a scene of Santa and reindeers. It was tremendous pressure because I wasn’t sure I could draw a reindeer from memory. The teacher found the reference for me to work from which confused m. If she had pictures of reindeers, why did she need me? I write about this experience a lot.
Where did you live in Buffalo?
We moved around quite a bit. I lived in North Tonawanda in the Herschell home owned by the family that built the carousels. I loved that old house. We lived in Tonawanda for a short time, Grand Island, Kenmore and the West Side of Buffalo.
Where do you live now?
I live in Houston, Texas.
Do you still have family in Buffalo?
My parents have both passed away. I have several cousins and immediate family in the area. I have a sister, Becky Gillen in Grand Island and Bill Mongeon lives in Gasport. I have two nieces Rachel Dluhy and Kate Rzadkiewicz. I’m coming to Buffalo for Kate’s wedding, so I guess she will be Kate Fogelsonger. She is the daughter of Jack —my inspiration for the Mad Hatter.
When you lived in Buffalo, did you receive inspiration in your career?
Oh, my word yes! The novels I am working on are full of experiences from my childhood.
My first introduction to art was through my teachers at every level. I am eternally thankful for their dedication. I mention that in my dedication of the book.
The Albright-Knox art gallery gave me something for which to aspire.
But, it was more than just the art galleries. It was Delaware Park, and the richness of the woods and streams surrounding this area, and the cemeteries- especially Forest Lawn Cemetery near Delaware Park. I try to visit there every time I come home. I’m a nut about cemeteries, and Forest Lawn has a piece by one of my favorite sculptors—Harriet Frishmuth.
The Seaward Johnson sculpture of the newspaper reader on Niagara Street probably influenced my career as an artist. That is exactly the type of work that I love to create— bronzes that interact with the community. The Mad Hatter Tea Party at Evelyn’s Park has that in spades, or should I say “hearts.” Oh, how I wish I could receive a commission to create something like that for the Buffalo area.
In your art education in Buffalo, did any one teacher stand out?
Absolutely! Debbie Lloyd was my teacher at Kenmore West. She went over and above the call of an art teacher. She helped me through some very difficult times and in the end, we became very close friends. I love her dearly and have her in my book dedication.
You are not necessarily an educator, but education seems to be important in what you do.
Yes, it is. I love the opportunity of helping others to reach their goals. I’m obsessed with sharing information and in creating community. Those things seem to drive everything that I do. I love that I can educate through my speaking engagements, writings and podcasts.
I also want to work with an art mentoring program. I looked and could not find one. So, I created my own. I’m presently mentoring a young man. I would love to be involved in a progressive education art mentoring program. I’m sure I could do it through distance learning. If there is anyone who is interested, please let me know.
I was thrilled to be a part of 3DCAMP Houston as the cochairwoman for two years. It was a tremendous amount of work, but it was great. I helped in education, developed community and gathered resource for my book.
What started you into 3D technology?
I was married, and my husband was doing 3D graphics as a medical illustrator. He brought me to many conventions that introduced me to the technology. I kept my eye on it and wrote about the technology for Sculpture Review in 2007. Soon after, I developed a graduate degree around 3D Technology in Fine art.
Another thing that pushed me to 3D technology was an injury. Artists like dancers, require their bodies to create their work. Bruce Beasley, a well-known sculptor, describes it in my book as “dancers bodies”. We injure ourselves through the very thing we love. About five years ago, after many years of pushing around clay, I developed some pretty good Popeye forearms. However, I lost all the use of my right hand, I had surgery and am very careful, still doing massage, therapy and use my interns for repetitive work, but when it happened I thought my career was over. That is when I fully embraced 3D technology into my own work.
When sitting on a panel last month, “Hand vs. Computer” at the National Sculpture Society meeting in Philadelphia, I met an artist who had a stroke. He said he was interested in my book because he hoped he could one day create again. I wept. Because of my temporary loss, our encounter was a very personal experience.
Should my career keep going in the direction that it is, I have considered being involved in a scholarship program. I would love to create something for young artist/writers/musicians, especially ones with personal difficulties.
Do you work alone?
Sometimes, but with a project like Alice or the Grambling Tiger, I will find interns from the neighboring schools, high schools, and colleges. We can have up to 10 people working on a project that come and go throughout the week depending on their schedules. I long to have one young artist that I could nurture and would then work for me full time. I do have an intern that has worked with me on quite a few projects. Allison Gonzalez is not a sculptor, but she is the best “rusty right arm” any artist could hope for. I also long for an office assistant- with all I do I need someone to keep me straight. Until then… I have an imaginary assistant named Elizabeth.
Podcasts? You mentioned podcasts, what are they and where do people find them?
Well, I have been podcasting for years. I love it, though it is time-consuming, especially the editing.
I started podcasting years ago with the Inspirations Generations Podcast. I podcasted with my daughter and mom “Three Generations of Christian Women.” Mom sat on the phone in her assisted living facility in Amherst. She had a powerful spiritual ministry helping hurting women throughout Western New York area, but when her body turned against her, she spent most of her time in a chair or bed. My daughter, Christina Sizemore, who lived in Oklahoma at the time, would call, and we would talk about different things, mostly of a spiritual nature. That interaction gave my mother a purpose in her last days. We did that for nearly three years. I am so thankful I did this. I can listen to my mom, anytime I want, though many of the podcasts were not just with mom. Her health would not permit it. So we podcasted with others like Billy Grahams daughter Ruth Graham, the figure skater Scott Hamilton, a monk in Taize France and numerous authors, comedians, etc. The podcast can be found on iTunes and on my gift collectibles webpage at godsword.net.
ART AND TECHNOLOGY PODCASTS
In the last year I revived the Art and Technology podcasts that I started during my graduate degree. I now interview the artists and vendors from around the world that I have featured in my book, and who are pushing the limits of the technology. These podcasts can be found on ITunes and on the book’s website at www.digitalsculpting.net
You mentioned novels. So, you write more than nonfiction?
Yes. I probably have about seven books that I am writing at any one time. What makes it difficult is that they are all different genres. I’m very diverse. I love writing young adult and middle grade. I have a few books in the works; they are highly reflective of my childhood in Western New York. Another novel that is complete is about a young girl whose mother sculpts deceased loved ones, and the strange occurrences that happen surrounding that. I base this story on a lot of my experiences of sculpting the deceased. That is another area that I am known for. I love helping people with their grief through my art. I also wrote a nonfiction book on the strange things that happen when I am sculpting deceased loved ones that include the science, empathy, and emotion of the process. It is a fascinating subject, and I have also lectured on from time to time.
I also have a few children’s books I have written. I’d love to do more of those now that I am a grandmother. My biggest hindrance in getting these published is that I detest looking for publishers. With all of my diversity, I could spend a great deal of time tracking down the right publishers. I desperately need an agent that is diverse in the publishing field.
Many people ask me if I would consider self-publishing. I love the idea, but my books are stolen from the Internet weekly. I love the freedom of copying the link and sending it to my editor to get it to their legal department. I’d go broke tracking these down myself.
I love helping other artist/writers/and musicians market their work and have written about this throughout my career and speak on it whenever possible. I decided to pull from some of those writings and create a book that is a series of essays. This idea was sparked recently by the death of B. B. King. I realized it had been nearly 30 years since I sculpted him and he gave me my start as an artist, calling me his “personal sculptor.” I needed to record these adventures along with some of my epiphanies in my creative life. I’m excited to be working on that project—in my spare time.
What books have you written?
I was coauthor on Digital Sculpting with Mudbox: Essential Tools and Techniques for Artists
with author Mike de la Flor. I contributed to Mike de la Flor’s book The Digital Biomedical Illustration Handbook (Charles River Media Graphics) and have I been a contributing author on a few other books. I have written for numerous magazines and papers on different subjects. 3D Technology in Fine Art and Craft: Exploring 3D Printing, Scanning, Sculpting and Milling is my first book going solo.
You sound very busy, what do you do for fun?
Well, I love what I do. Getting paid to play in dirt and write is extremely rewarding. I have a 2-year old granddaughter, and I love the entire experience of learning through play and exploration. However, it is extremely stimulating creatively; I want to sculpt her, paint her and write books for her.
I am a ferocious reader- and listen to audio books like most people listen to the radio.
I am a gardener, but I realized that the word “garden” is also a verb, an action. I don’t do that very much anymore, as I walk through my gardens to my studio. I spend most of my time near my pond and stream that I created in my backyard. It is a way for me to have a little of that western New York memory in my Texas backyard.
I also dance. I assist with salsa and bachata at SSQQ dance studio in Houston. When I’m not hauling around sculpture, dance is what I do 2-3 times a week for exercise. Besides, being a sculptor and writer is a lone experience. Assisting with dance is my interaction with others. Dance is my “water cooler” experience.
A writer and a sculptor, is that hard?
When I was young, I thought I had to choose one over the other. I was also singing in the chorus and played the guitar, so that made it even more difficult.
There are two muses, over the years I have learned to play them one off the other. I say, “I will be finished with this book writing and be able to get my hands dirty again. Ah, but once I do, this lover, “writing” will taunt me just as my sculpting lover is now. Yes, having an affair with another creative process can keep your creative passion on fire, but it might be less heart wrenching to be in a monogamous creative relationship. Ah writing and sculpting muse you each vie for my attention and I am blissfully and heart wrenchingly caught in between.”
I always tell students that one of the most important aspects of my career as an artist, was being able to write. I write about my work and what I know. I create press releases. It is an important skill.
What is your education?
I have always claimed Kenmore West as “My high school” even though, technically, I was only there for a few months. I was one of the kids that fell through the cracks. I left home at the age of 15. NY had a law that said you could not work past 9:00 p.m. if you were under age—stupid law. It forced me to quit school. Of all of my accomplishments, I wish I could have added graduating from Ken West to my list. Alas, I cannot, but my heart is there, and I will always be thankful for the quality adults that touched my life during that very short time. Frankly, I’m not sure I’d be alive without their help. But that is another story, one I hope to write in a novel one day.
Later, after moving to Texas, I brought my portfolio to the Community College and they accepted me into their program on my portfolio alone. I originally went into advertising and public relations, a choice that has benefited me in my career as a fine artist. I left the community college for full-time employment and soon after found sculpting. Later in life, I finished my bachelor’s degree at Vermont College. It was an unusual program as you could design your studies. It was distance degree program with a one-week residency twice a year in Vermont. I loved the progressive education, and it fit my personality perfectly. I am self-motivated to a fault. I continued with a similar program at Goddard College, also in Vermont for my Master of Fine Arts in Interdisciplinary Art (MFAIA). I had a dual focus in my MFAIA. It was important for me to receive enough credits in both areas so that I could teach, if I wanted, though my art, writing and speaking keep me busy full time. I structured my degree around 3D technology and fine art. I believe I designed one of the first degrees with this focus. The other focus of my MFAIA was creative writing.
The best part of traveling to the North East twice a year for my undergraduate and graduate programs is that I made a point to stop in Buffalo. I will forever be thankful that I had such quality time with my parents before they passed.
What is in your future?
I’ll finish the sculpting on Alice this year. The sculpture will be at the foundry for several months. Then I’ll spend a month in Santa Fe where I’ll check the metal and work with Shidoni foundry. While in Santa Fe and in between metal checks and the final patina, I’m scheduling some speaking engagements in New Mexico and Colorado. When I’m not doing either of those things, I’ll park myself in an inspirational location looking at the wonderful Santa Fe landscape, and I’ll write. I see myself doing a lot of that as I am writing two books around the Alice in Wonderland sculpture. The fist, Finding Alice- The Process is very similar to 3D technology in Fine Art and Craft: Exploring 3D Printing, Scanning, Sculpting, and Milling. However, instead of focusing on artists around the world who use the technology I will be focusing on the process of creating the sculpture “Move One Place On.”
The second book is The Finding Alice- Field Guide, it is written in rhyme and riddle. It will give hints to the 150 hidden items in the scene. I’m thrilled about writing this one, as I love writing for children, and this gives me a reason to stretch those creative muscles.
Unlike many artists who work in their studio and sell their art at art shows or in galleries, I work from commission to commission. With the incorporation of the digital technology, I can create twice as much as I could before I used that in my studio. I’m never sure what commissions are around the corner. I have a few life-size commissions pending after the completion of Alice. Though they have broken ground for the Neil Armstrong sculpture in Russia, they are still trying to raise the money. www.unitedinspace.com so that is on hold. I’m always open for new commissions. I have publicly told the town of Clarence I would redo the sculpture of Lucy, but I have not heard from them. Other than that, I’ll wait to see what comes. It is not often that an artist has such an incredible opportunity to create something like the Mad Hatter Tea party. I do hope I find another client that would love something as fanciful and fun as this project, my dream would be that this would be in Buffalo.
I hope to get over to Europe. I have been invited by the Digital Stone Project for the last two years but have had to decline as I kept thinking Alice was coming through. I write about the digital stone project in my book. It is a residency where artists stay in Tuscany for a month. They pick out marble from the stone quarry and then create art using CNC milling and a robotic arm at Garfagnana Innovazione.
In my book, I have featured so many artists and vendors from across the pond. I would love to spend a couple months, one in the Digital Stone Project residency and another traveling, speaking and seeing the incredible art I featured in the book. Besides Garfagnana Innovazione. There is Estudio Durero in Spain. They create 3D photography for the blind. Factum Arte in Madrid, is creating so much with 3D technology and fine art it would be a wonder to see it in person. There are many different companies and artists in the Netherlands such as Joris Laarman, another artist I featured in the book and who has had lots of publicity of late for his robotic 3D printing of metal and the bridge that is building itself. I’d love to get over to Austraila and see Symbiotica at the University Of Western Australia, they combine artists and scientist to create some very strange and intriguing art. I have podcasted with Oron Catts at Symbiotica and featured him in this book and other articles. There are many pioneers who have been using 3D technology in their fine art for many years. I have come to know them, long distance. I would love the opportunity to see them and perhaps share with their universities.
Do you have artwork in Buffalo?
The sculptor has publicly offered the newsboy to the Buffalo area if funds can be raised to cast and deliver the sculpture. She will donate her portion.
No, it is on my bucket list, and I have left instructions in my will. Of course, I would be elated to have something at the Albright-Knox. I have publicly said, on more than on occasions, that I would donate my portion of the newsboy sculpture to the area if I could find a backer to pay for casting and shipping. Maybe I should set up a Kickstarter for that. I have no idea where the sculpture would go, but I can tailor the newspaper he is hawking to depict a period in history. I’d also love to have a public piece along the Canal in North Tonawanda, since that is where I was born.
My mother is buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. They don’t allow sculptures in her portion of the cemetery. She is buried on St. Francis drive. I have often dreamed of creating a large sculpture of Saint Francis that would reside on Saint Francis drive or in front of this cemetery.
Maybe I’ll find an art patron or business, who loves Buffalo as much as I do, and can see the possibility of collaborating on a wonderful interactive piece for Buffalo. If you know of one, tell them I’ll clear my schedule and be ready to start in 2016.