“People have to have time to go through stages with you,” the sculptor John Ahearn explained on a recent morning, standing in his sun-filled studio in the South Bronx. “You can’t just grab someone like this!” He gripped my arms tightly, then let up with a quick laugh.
Mr. Ahearn, who is 60 and classically handsome—square jaw, piercing eyes, neatly buzzed gray hair—was explaining how he and his artistic partner, Rigoberto Torres, have made art for the past 30 years. They cover their subjects’ faces and shoulders with a toothpaste-like goop called alginate, the stuff dentists use to make molds, and a layer of plaster bandages. The subjects breathe through straws while the materials harden. The whole process takes about 20 minutes, and a fair amount of trust. The two artists then take those molds and fill them in with plaster to make positive casts, which they build up and carve, and paint into startlingly lifelike wall reliefs. Read More