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Buffalo State Hosts 17th Annual Invitational Iron Pour

Posted: November 29, 2007
On a cold November weekend on campus, Kenneth Payne, professor of fine arts, directed sculpture students from six colleges and independent artists from the United States and Canada in the pouring of 4,000 pounds of molten iron into more than 100 sculpture molds that soon became fascinating works of art.

The Invitational Iron Pour, held Nov. 17, was started 16 years ago by Payne to give students an opportunity to turn their sculpture designs from mold into image. At the time, there were only four such events on campuses nationwide. Today, as cast iron sculpture has grown in popularity, pours have become more prevalent, but Buffalo State College’s is still considered one of the best.

“The academic goal is to give students an opportunity to cast their work,” said Payne. “But, it’s much more than that. It’s a primordial ritual with magnificent objects being born out of molten metal and raging fire as everyone participants or stands witness to the creation. It’s an amazing sight and experience.”

As Payne’s international reputation as a sculptor has grown, so have the pours. This year, students came from Alfred University, the Rochester Institute of Technology, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Ramapo College of New Jersey, and William Patterson University, also in New Jersey.

In the past 10 years, Payne has created 12 large-scale sculptures in nine countries. If you happen to be in Finland and it’s the 15th hour of seemingly endless daylight, you can take refuge in a 16-foot-tall sculpture called Night, one of Payne’s latest creations.

The cast iron sculpture is suggestive of a huge black raven. Visitors enter the dark, mysterious center, which is a domed space created by the arch of outstretched wings. When they do, says Payne, “they are enveloped by a starry night.” Bits of colored glass pierce the underside of the black wings.

“Sculpture is a battle about an object and whether it is valid or not,” says Payne who works in iron, stone, brick, wind, ice and fire to create his sculptures. “In the past, artisans used traditional materials and tried to explode the presentation. Today, nontraditional materials are used to make a statement.”

After an idea is conceived and a commission won, Payne works with a foundry near the installation site to transform his concepts. For Night, he spent three years developing the vision, landed the commission, and then worked with a Helsinki foundry to craft the 8,000-pound cast iron sculpture, which graces a city park.

Payne came to Buffalo State College in 1990 from the Midwest, where he lived in Milwaukee and had galleries in Chicago. That transition is marked by another benchmark in his career: Payne re-created an 18th-century pre-melting furnace prized by artisans for its portability but lost to history. He now lectures throughout the world on the furnace. His original re-creation and three variations are enviable resources on the Buffalo State College campus.

Payne’s students benefit from the furnace, as well as his contacts in the international “iron community.” Over the years, they have traveled to numerous countries, including Russia, Hungary, Finland, and Israel, and have presented and participated in major conferences throughout the world. Alums of the Buffalo State sculpture program can be found in major institutions, galleries and companies across the United States.
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