Female Wall

Photo credit Hans Ullysses at Flickr.com.  Used with permission with our sincere thanks.

"Female Wall" sculpture by Ted Bieler (1967)

Ted Bieler is a Professor Emeritus, Department of Visual Arts, York University. I thought I would ask him a question about the location of his sculpture at Expo 67.

Professor Bieler revealed that the Female Wall sculpture "was placed on a brick plinth outside" the Canadian Pavilion. "It is in a catalogue written by Bill Withrow on the art at the Canadian Pavilion," he said.

However, the one displayed above in the picture is not the original. Professor Bieler explains: "An FRP  [fiberglass reinforced plastic] version of the original concrete version that was at EXPO is in the collection of the National Capital Commission in Ottawa and is mounted on a wall in a courtyard just off Sussex Drive in Ottawa."

The replica is located in the "Tin House Court", just north-west of the Market Mall, at 22 Murray Street (that runs off of Sussex Drive.)  Look for the wall annexed to "Sussex House" in the "Tin House Court" and you will have found the Female Wall.

And what exactly happened to the original sculpture? Once again Professor Bieler explains:

"After Expo 67 Female Wall was put, or more probably summarily dumped, at an outdoors storage lot either in Ottawa or Montreal, I am not sure. The National Capital Commission came to me in 1986, I think, with the request to repair a very damaged Female Wall in view of installing it in Ottawa.

"Female Wall was originally a Ciment fondu casting made by applying a layer of cement mortar to a modelled wax mould. The cement fondu sand mix was reinforced with fiberglass strand. Once the cement [concrete] hardened the wax was melted off with a blow torch. Ciment fondu is used in the refractories industry because of its high heat resistance and is used by sculptors because it reproduces mould surfaces accurately.

"When the sculpture was shipped to me it was beyond repair as a concrete sculpture so we decided to do a temporary fix with a hard wax reconstructing the damaged parts so a mould could be pulled. A silicon rubber mould backed up with a plaster mother mould was made in my studio and then an FRP shell casting was made in my studio from the silicon mould.

"That unique casting in FRP is the work in Ottawa. The silicon mould is destroyed from long neglect and the original concrete Female Wall sits intact with wax repairs under a staircase in my barn studio.

"Ideally, if there was some money, I would like to make a new mould of Female Wall and make a lost wax casting in bronze of the sculpture. I have not costed this out.

"Female Wall in spite of it being a very early piece of mine is still one of my favourites. It incorporates many formal and conceptual themes that have continued to be central to my sculpture and it has stood the test of time at least the modest time of some forty six years of making sculpture and counting."

- Researched by John Whelan, October 29, 2008.