American, b. 1941
Maquette for Bearing Witness, 1994
59 3/4 x 15 x 19 1/2 in. (151.8 x 38.1 x 49.5 cm)
© Martin Puryear, courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

The form of Bearing Witness was inspired by abstracted imagery of the human head and neck. It was created in collaboration with Merrifield-Roberts, a company specializing in the design and fabrication of sailboats, that had previously worked on Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Spoonbridge and Cherry (1988) for the Walker Art Center’s sculpture garden. Puryear chose them for their capacity to create domed concavities in sheet metal. Bearing Witness is crafted from hammer-formed and welded bronze, rather than cast. The artist has expressed that he is “more interested in the additive process of making forms, rather than modeling them and then having them translated in metal and cast.”

The maquette for Bearing Witness was created with blocks of pine wood. To guide the fabrication of the final work, Puryear disassembled the maquette block by block, tracing these blocks and recording their dimensions. About this process, Puryear has said, “Making wooden constructions is about assembly. Trying to think of a shape a priori and figuring out how to then construct that shape and put it together requires a certain kind of logic that happens when you are making a piece additively as opposed to subtractively.”