Understanding our sexual/romantic potential is important for us as conceptual beings. Sexuality is crucially important for our ability to celebrate our very existence--to enjoy our lives and to establish a personal identity as such.

Sandra Shaw on Sex in Sculpture

by | Mar 4, 2002

New Romanticist: Who is Sandra Shaw?
Sandra Shaw:
I am a professional sculptor who specializes in portraiture and the nude figure. I am largely self-taught but also received invaluable instruction at the National Academy School of Fine Art in New York City. My Masters from the University of Toronto was in philosophy, along with studies in art history. Of great interest to me is the relationship of philosophical ideas to the human form in sculpture.

Outside my regular studio work, I study the nature and significance of the changes that have taken place in figurative sculpture throughout history. The material I present at conferences reflects my observations about these historical changes. I have recently completed four female nude sculptures. My works can be viewed at my website www.SandraShaw.com.

New Romanticist: Yes, I have seen your work, and it is fantastic. How did you become interested in Ayn Rand and Objectivism?
Sandra Shaw:
I first became interested in studying Objectivism in my freshman year at York University where I encountered Dr. John Ridpath and his teachings on the history of ideas. Atlas Shrugged was on the required reading list for his course.

I was a socialist at that time and had no understanding of philosophy, let alone of Objectivism. Prior to my university experience, I had read part of Atlas Shrugged as a high school assignment, but dismissed it as unreal. I was so unaware of Rand being a serious thinker that when I saw Atlas Shrugged on Dr. Ridpath’s reading list, I went to his office and asked that he explain himself. That encounter marked the beginning of my adult intellectual growth.

New Romanticist: How and why did you become a sculptor?

Sandra Shaw: I became a sculptor naturally: by developing my talents from early childhood. I have drawn the figure since as far back as I can remember, about 3 1/2 years of age — my archived drawings date from then. Around 9, I became interested in Master drawings by such artists as Leonard da Vinci and Michelangelo. By 13, I began more serious studies of human anatomy and portraiture.

Drawing has always been my preoccupation, but I never planned on a career in fine art — throughout my adolescence I did not regard fine art as a viable profession. When I started university (in preparation for a career in writing), I got a summer job sculpting for a museum. That job turned into a three-year training session in which I completed nine life-size human figures in clay. I loved it and did a great job. By the end of that project, I knew that I had to at least try to make a go of sculpting for a living, and I haven’t looked back since. The reason why I became a sculptor is because I love the human form, and three-dimensional sculpture most satisfies my desire to recreate Man.

New Romanticist: How does philosophy help your work as an artist? Of what value is philosophy to an artist?

Sandra Shaw: Big question. I can’t properly answer it here. Some extemporaneous thoughts on this: understanding Objectivism does not train anyone to be a good artist. Technical skill in art is developed from childhood and depends on the artist’s psycho-epistemology and character — which includes their rationality, their interest and ability to focus intensely on certain aspects of reality, and their work ethic. If an artist’s psycho-epistemology from childhood is rational enough, and they are disposed to constantly view certain things with great sensitivity and habitually recreate what they see, then they have a chance of becoming a good artist.

When it comes to the quality and content of art, the question is really: How does Reason help an artist’s work? In my adult years, Objectivism has served me primarily as inspiration. Objectivism has given me the immeasurable value of understanding myself and my world. That understanding is what saves an artist’s soul from an irrational culture and clears the way, psychologically, for their achievements. It is also important for me to know that an artist like Ayn Rand existed. Her life is an inspiration for all artists.

New Romanticist: Speaking of inspiration, can you tell me about your Summer 2002 course, ‘Body & Soul: Sculpture as a Vision of Man’s Romantic, Sexual Potential’?

Sandra Shaw: Body & Soul is an extended, revised version of a talk I gave at the Valentines Weekend conference in 1998. It was very well received then, but I thought it was too short. I had to cut a lot of material to fit the short time slot. This time around I can delve into more issues in greater detail and with more examples. Sex in sculpture is the topic — how sculpture translates Man’s view of himself as a sexual/romantic being, from the ancient world to modern times. I don’t want to give too much away here. I’ll just say that it’s a sexy story, for an adult audience.

New Romanticist: What is the value of your course to Objectivists?

Sandra Shaw: Understanding our sexual/romantic potential is important for us as conceptual beings. Sexuality is crucially important for our ability to celebrate our very existence–to enjoy our lives and to establish a personal identity as such.

Sculpture embodies a metaphysical view of Man’s nature, and it uses the human form to concretize certain views about Man’s potential — including his romantic potential. So by studying sculpture, we can see how different views of sexuality get translated into sculptural form. This kind of study helps us see how different philosophical views affect Man’s vision of himself, and so it helps to ground our knowledge of philosophy in general.

It also affords one an opportunity to see some great and inspiring art and to hone our skills in evaluating sculpture. My course is a good combination of abstract knowledge grounded with visual concretes.

New Romanticist: Thank you Sandra Shaw. It was a pleasure as always. I look forward to taking your course, ‘Body & Soul: Sculpture as a Vision of Man’s Romantic, Sexual Potential‘ this year at Summer 2002 West.


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