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The Cavanaugh Sculpture Garden

 
 
 
 
The PSO has played an ongoing  role in the development of a sculpture garden across from its headquarters on New Hampshire Avenue in Washington and devoted to the work of John Cavanaugh (1921-1985).
 
Cavanaugh was a familiar figure in Dupont Circle, and some of his bas reliefs are fixed in the facades of  local buildings. He worked in lead at a time when precautions against the dangers of lead poisoning were less understood and eventually died from the consequences.
 
The development of the garden, which won approval from the District government, is part of the PSO's efforts to be a good citizen in the capital. The sculptures are unique, with one criticic remarking:
 
"Other sculptors who attempted hammered lead could only take it to a stage of high relief. Cavanaugh was able to shape and expand his sculpture fully in the round; a stunning achievement considering several of the pieces are life-sized. In the process of working in hammered lead, most sculptors find it difficult to control the material because of its low melting point. The hammering creates enough friction and heat that the metal actually beings to "flow" and stretch, often causing excessive thinning and holes in the lead. Thus, most sculptors who worked in lead were usually restricted to relief sculpture. Cavanaugh discovered that by using a variety of tools and several techniques, including reversing the traditional repousse method of hammering metal, he could create a wide range of subjects. These direct techniques heightened the experience for the viewers, who could see the subtle and sometimes sensual effect on the surface of his work. This skill and his creative approach of rendering his sculpture provided a unique range of effects in his work, as well as an intimate visual experience."
 
 
 
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