For more than a generation, Howard Hitchcock was a sculptor, devoting decades to perfecting the art of ceramic shell casting. For thirty-two years he also devoted himself to sharing this knowledge as a university professor of art, teaching a course in bronze casting for close to two decades. The ceramic shell mold industrial casting process that Howard Hitchcock developed into his own unique approach to casting sculpture is one that not only captured his skill and imagination but also his heart. As the artist noted in the preface to his instructional book, Out of the Fiery Furnace (William Kaufmann, Inc. 1985), “Ceramic shell casting is the most spectacular art process imaginable, particularly at the crescendo of a night pour when the glowing, golden stream of liquid bronze flows into the red-hot shell, bringing it to neon incandescence in the dark.”
To help us understand this exciting process, the preface to the Howard Hitchcock book begins: “Lost-wax casting is truly an ancient and venerable art that has been practiced in diverse cultures and continents over thousands of years. The most modern approach to that ancient process, dating from only the mid-point of the twentieth century, is ceramic shell casting. Instead of being encased in the traditional solid-block mold that weakens in the heat of burnout, the wax model is thinly coated with a ceramic material that is fired by the burnout into a hard, lightweight shell for receiving the molten bronze. In both cases, whatever was wax becomes bronze.”
The artistic vision of Howard Hitchcock, one informed by humor, satire, and even commentary, belies the seriousness of his skills and intellect. Every remarkable bronze he creates challenges viewers to work out its cleverness. In the artist’s sculptures stylized human forms blend into the structure of objects, both imagined and ordinary, and as disparate as train stations and violins. These human forms by Howard Hitchcock form the spokes of wheels, push over-sized envelopes and, in a piece entitled, “On the Cutting Edge,” perch atop a blade.
The sculptures by Howard Hitchcock have been exhibited throughout the United States, Mexico and Japan. And he is, most deservedly, included in “Who’s Who in American Art.”