Babson Magazine

Summer 2016

21st Century Gargoyles

gargoyle-2Danielle Krcmar, Babson artist in residence, is a sculptor fascinated with figures and the study of movement and expression. Krcmar, who creates art using a range of sculptural media and reclaimed or found materials, is inspired by human anatomy and the structural similarities among living things.

Recently, she sculpted gargoyles (shown here) for a church in southern Illinois that had been leveled by a tornado and was being rebuilt in the Gothic style. However, this 21st century request for an art form popular in the Middle Ages was not her first. In 2008, an architectural firm that Krcmar previously had worked with contacted her to create gargoyles for a church renovation near New Orleans. For that project, Krcmar sculpted two figures; each was professionally cast twice in concrete to make four gargoyles.

When the same firm accepted the project in Illinois, it reached out to Krcmar again. The request was for griffins, a mythical creature that combines a lion and an eagle, but with some stipulations. “The church wanted the bird part of the gargoyle to be dominant,” she says. Krcmar thinks the community wanted to capture the strength of the eagle and its ability to soar, attributes the community may have needed after the tornado. The gargoyles, just 36 inches from beak to tail, also were to be functioning downspouts, with the forms accommodating a drainpipe. “Working on the engineering aspect was a challenge,” she says, “but it was a pleasure to do a lot of fun research.”

When creating the gargoyle, Krcmar sculpted the figure in Plasticine, an oil-based clay that never dries. “Plasticine can be heated to make it loose and can be carved when it cools,” Krcmar explains. “Then a mold was created from the original sculpture.”

Historically, gargoyles were made from stone or, more recently, with reinforced concrete. But, in this case, the already heavy concrete might have become unstable with a drainpipe as part of the structure. So sturdy and lightweight fiberglass was chosen. Because working with fiberglass resin is toxic, four identical griffins were cast in fiberglass from the mold by a professional firm, and the material was tinted and textured to blend with the church.

Krcmar loved the gargoyle assignments and the dialogue between the customers’ vision and her interpretation. “It was strangely liberating to work on something that wasn’t my own idea,” she says. “It was a mix of detachment and investment and research.” Though she misses having the gargoyles in her studio, she is happy they are where they will be seen. “This work is out in the public sphere, in the landscape, creating dialogue.”