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Nick Matta was an undergraduate engineering student at ETSU who was also taking classes in digital media when he decided to enroll in Travis Graves’ sculpture class to gain a “different perspective.” Nick hadn’t done any sculpture since he was a five-year-old with a can of Play Doh but he says Travis “provided a great wealth of knowledge about sculpting.” Creating a bronze sculpture for the downtown scavenger hunt project, “Wildabout Walkabout,” proved to be an “interesting, fun, and dangerous!” classroom experience.
Nick chose the beaver for his sculpture in part because the leather-like texture of its tail offered a challenge. He felt it was also the most interesting aspect of the animal. He mulled over various poses in his reference photos before deciding to adopt Travis’s “creative suggestion” to put the beaver in water. Heating the wax to make it more malleable, Nick used scalpel tools to sculpt his model. Carving his model was a very time-consuming part of the process so Nick did much of that work at home.
Things began to shut down that semester because of the COVID Pandemic so Nick pitched in to help Travis melt the bronze and cast the sculptures. His own piece split into three sections during the pour because it was so heavy and they ran out of metal. Larger bronze sculptures are always cast in separate pieces and welded together afterwards so, while unexpected, this was not out of the ordinary. It was just a little hiccup in a complex medium with many steps that sometimes requires creative solutions.
Nick is originally from middle Tennessee. He earned his undergraduate degree at ETSU after his service in the Air Force and is currently a graduate student in Engineering Technology. Upon graduation in December, Nick plans to teach. Participating in the “Wildabout Walkout” public art project gave Nick a greater appreciation for art, particularly sculpture. He likes to walk through the sculpture garden in Founders Park and hopes that being introduced to art through public art projects will encourage more kids to choose a career in art.