The Creation of the Three Moai

• private collection, Whistler, BC, Canada

michael binkley sculptor sculpture original fine art gallery vancouver canada granite figurative moai easter island

In the late summer of 2009, Michael Binkley secured a commission to carve three Moai sculptures for a patron in Whistler, BC, Canada. The subject of emulating the famous Easter Island Moai head sculptures was decided upon after patron and Binkley exchanged numerous emails, and developed a collaborative relationship. After many discussions and sketches, Binkley agreed to carve the sculptures six feet tall and from locally quarried Hardy Island grey granite. Each Moai head was to be unique, but they had to retain the iconic features of the originals. It was now the end of July and they had to be finished in time for the Vancouver Winter Olympics Games in February, 2010, so Binkley had to work feverishly in order to make the deadline. He carved one sculpture a month for three months.

michael binkley sculptor sculpture original fine art gallery vancouver canada granite figurative moai easter island

Binkley ordered the three granite blocks from the local quarry and had flat bottoms and the bridge of their noses cut to save on carving time. They were delivered to his studio by crane truck and stored outside. The artist began by carving each sculpture outside the studio door until such time as each was light enough to move inside and onto the turntable.

michael binkley sculptor sculpture original fine art gallery vancouver canada granite figurative moai easter island

Binkley used water cooled diamond blade angle grinders to make frets which he pounds off using hammer and chisel to roughly shape each Moai. This method is a fast, non-physically taxing way to remove large amounts of bulk stone. The sculptor had to experiment a lot with different blades before finding the right matrix for this particular type of granite – another reminder that not all granites are created equal, and not every diamond blade will cut a particular type of granite. Binkley finished the sculptures using four-point carbide tipped bushing chisels. This gave the surface of each sculpture a slightly rough texture akin to the surface of a bowl of porridge. The result leaves the granite with an appearance of being almost white from a distance when dry.

 

michael binkley sculptor sculpture original fine art gallery vancouver canada granite figurative moai easter island

The third sculpture was completed at the end of October, but mitigating circumstances forced a delay in delivery until early December. It was a cold, sunny winter afternoon as three, two-ton granite Moai heads strapped to a flatdeck truck attracted some curious glances as they traveled the highway from Vancouver to Whistler, on the Sea to Sky Highway.

Originally the patron wanted the three heads to be placed in the forested landscape of his property, but with so much snow in those areas when the installation took place, the patron decided to install the three sculptures in a row in front of the house (right). Binkley stands between the sculptures that are wet from being cleaned of marks left by the nylon security travel straps.

During the 2010 Olympics, the sculptures were the centre of attention for photo opportunities with many visitors from around the world. This unexpected and overwhelming response from so many people helped determine that the sculptures would stay where they were placed, and the patron’s house has become known as “The House with the Heads” amongst the locals.

Michael Binkley