The Art of the Life Casting

Life casting or body casting as some like to call it continues to be a controversial topic within most art circles. Many in the art world feel that it is far from an art form since it is just someone copying the body requiring no artistic skill whatsoever. So what is body casting to those artists and sculptors who engage in it? Is it just a substitute for artistic talent? That is what this brief article will attempt to answer.

To begin, one might as well ask what photography is as it is somewhat analogous. A short answer is that it is a method of reproducing an exact likeness of a three-dimensional object in two dimensions. That definitely is a technical answer, but far from an adequate one. When photography first emerged in the 1800’s, there were just as many critics deriding this new art over the great talents of traditional painters and sculptors. Yet today, few would doubt the artistic skills of such renowned photographers as Ansell Adams, Annie Liebovitz and Robert Cappa to name just a few greats. They have taken the mechanical craft of photography, added their own style and perspective, and created high art forms that are admired the world over.

The same can also be said for life casting – an art form often denigrated by artistic purists as nothing more than copying – but think photography. In the hands of amateurs, one cannot disagree with these critics. However all one has to do is to view the works of John DeAndrea, Duane Hanson and George Segal the holy trinity of body casting artists and it most certainly would dispel that criticism. More recently the work of another talented life casting artist, Jason deCaires Taylor, comes to mind with his crowds of underwater sculptures creating artificial coral reefs throughout the world.

What these talented body casting artists would tell us if they were asked is that life casting is more than simply taking a mold from the human body. For it is what the artist does to create the initial mold (analogous to a photographic plate) – how he/she poses the model, the medium used to create the casting, the finishes applied and the resulting story the finished piece tells. In fact when properly executed, life casting, like painting, dancing, playing an instrument or sculpting it is an art form all to itself.

Life casting is about craftsmanship – as much as it is with a cabinetmaker or a fine furniture designer. It is about technique – just as is with an accomplished painter. It is about dimensional visualization – just as in sculpting and in photography. For great body casting is a blend of all these skill, the sculptor, the painter, the craftsman and the photographer.

In recent years, life casting artists have found themselves competing with each other to create artistic and beautiful front torso life casts. Most are without limbs and head simply a study of the torso. Such artistic pieces can be found in galleries throughout the world in a variety of poses, materials and finishes. For those interested in trying their hand at this unique art form, a torso casting is a great place to start as there are kits available with all the materials you need that can be found online.

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