Copper in the Arts

January 2011

Moran/Brown: Exquisite Contemporary Abstract Wall Constructions

By Nancy Ballou

Sculptor Robert Brown in front of his latest work. Sculptor Robert Brown in front of his latest work, at the new Setai Hotel in New York City.

Photograph courtesy of Moran/Brown

After studying at Carnegie-Mellon University and San Francisco Art Institute, oil painter Anne Moran moved to the beautiful copper mining town of Bisbee, Arizona because of its great artist community. Little did she know she would be introduced to an entirely new art form as well. She began studying the traditional techniques of working with copper such as repousse, brazing and cutting sheet metal with an oxy-acetylene torch and grew to appreciate the metal. "I designed and made southwestern wall art pieces like saguaros, suns and kokopelis among others."

Robert Brown grew up in Bisbee and received his art degree from Cochise College. He assisted a bronze sculptor for four years scaling up maquettes to colossal sized plaster sculptures before being cast in bronze.

They combined their expertise and started Moran/Brown in 1999. Copper work evolved towards abstract wall sculpture and away from tourist crafts as they concentrated on creating objects of tranquil and dynamic beauty. Today they work out of a home studio in Wilmington, North Carolina, where they live with their two daughters.

"I love the flexibility of copper, the texture, ease of shaping and variety of rich surface treatments," reports Moran. They buy mostly 16 oz. (.0216) 3' x 10' sheets from ThyssenKrupp Materials USA. Their process utilizes a torch to cut, braze and heat the copper sheets for a variety of colors. The metal's reflective quality produces a luminescent richness unique to copper underneath oxidized pigments. Hand tools from hammers to cutting wheels shape and sculpt the metal. Clients provide dimensions, color schemes and placement information for commissioned projects but leave the designing to Moran/Brown.

Contemporary copper wall sculpture by Moran/Brown. Indigo Gold contemporary copper wall sculpture by Moran/Brown.

Photograph courtesy of Moran/Brown

"I like when people ask for colors I did not even try to obtain yet like cream or gray," she says. "It's very fun coming up with new ways to get color out of the copper and not using paint. We are starting to use vitreous enamels fused on copper and this is very exciting because now any color is a possibility. In our current "Cascade Series," we cut the copper with a bench shear. The surface color is obtained from heating copper with an oxy-acetylene torch. We spray the pieces with varnish to seal the color. Once we have the composition we want, we transfer it over to wood panels, using an airgun to nail down the pieces."

Moran/Brown quickly caught on, and now the couple is commissioned to create works all over the country. Their work is on display at hotel lobbies, financial institutions and medical facilities.

"In October 2010, we installed a 19' x 8.5' wall sculpture behind the reception desk at the new Setai 5th Avenue Hotel in New York City," she says. "Production on this commission took four months. The artwork had about 4,000 individually torch-colored pieces of copper on 30 wood panels."

Earlier in 2010, Moran/Brown made lobby wall sculptures featured at Hotel Sierra in Morrisville, North Carolina and Hotel Sierra in Shelton, Connecticut. Their multiple wall sculptures can also be seen throughout the spa entry at Vdara in Las Vegas, Nevada. Their newest work will be on display at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show at Pier 94 in New York City from March 17 to 20. This will be their third year exhibiting at this show.

"I like consigning artwork to galleries and doing a show once a year because that gives us freedom to make new designs and develop new series," says Moran.

Resources:

Moran/Brown, P.O. Box 846, Hampstead, NC, (910) 681-0012

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