Mother and Child Relief Sculpture

Completed "Mother and Child" with final bronze patina.
“Mother and Child,” cement fondue, 36 x 48 inches (approx.)

Mother and Child is a relief sculpture that I made while studying at the University of Guelph. The assignment was to design an abstract relief sculpture for the lobby of a hospice, but I was having difficulty because the anniversary of my own child’s death was approaching. My professor, the Canadian sculptor John Fillion, was critical of my preliminary sketches (because they were too “soft and round” apparently), but after learning my story he spoke at length about the German artist, Kathe Kollwitz, and the depth of her work around death, dying, and loss. To my surprise, he suggested that I do a figurative piece. I don’t remember if it was him or me who selected Kollwitz’s 1903 etching, Mother and Dead Child… somehow I think it was him. In any case, I used models, including my son, a friend, and myself in order to render and personalize the figures.

Kathe Kollwitz, "Mother and Dead Child," Etching, 1903
Kathe Kollwitz, “Mother and Dead Child,” Etching, 1903

Mother and Child did hang on my wall for a few years, but it has been in storage up north since 2001 when I took a teaching contract in Mexico. This August 2nd, I’ll be attending my niece’s wedding and will be picking it up, which is why I’m writing this now. Although I initially thought I would never be able to part with this very personal piece, the truth is that it’s time to let it go. I don’t want it anymore and am hoping that someone local might be interested in purchasing it. I’ll be putting the word out via social media, but if you’re reading this and would like more information, please feel free to contact me.

For hanging, cable was embedded in the cement during fabrication. The piece weighs over fifty pounds, and a couple of bolts screwed into the wall studs will safely support its weight. (I patched and painted the walls when I moved, and everything was left pristine.)

About the process:  Working in sculpture using the casting technique is a long and very involved process, and “Mother and Child” took two months to complete. Below are photos that were taken during several stages of work. Missing are steps 4 (submerging the entire cast in a cold bath overnight while the plaster cures), 5 (removing the clay and washing the cast),  7 (returning the cast to a cold bath while the cement fondue cures), 8 (carefully chipping the plaster cast off the cement fondue sculpture with a chisel and wooden mallet), 10 (applying a thinned enamel wash to the sculpture and buffing it), and finally 11 (lightly painting the sculpture with several different metallic spray paints to achieve a bronze look).



Author: Michelle LaRiviere

Michelle is a multidisciplinary artist, curator, writer, and teacher. She is also a Reiki Master and life coach, specializing in guided soul work. Her art has been exhibited nationally in Canada, as well as in Italy, the UK, and the United States. Her practice includes traditional as well as digital media.

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