"Bound" Mixed Media, 2008.
Introduction:Creating a body of work to be shown in the Zilkha Gallery is arequirement for all studio majors at Wesleyan University. Wesleyan isthe only small liberal arts university with this requirement. It is arequirement that is not to be taken lightly. Creating my thesis was oneof the most challenging aspects of my college career and has providedme with invaluable experience. In 2008 there were seventeen studio artmajors in architecture, drawing, painting, photography, and sculpture.The bar was set high as everyone displayed impressive and challengingwork in their shows.
About the Art: Form and Content:My thesis show was entitled “Bound.” The pieces shown here make upthe six piece series that was shown in April 2008 in the ZilkhaGallery. All six of the pieces ranged from slightly larger to muchlarger than human scale. Every piece was made with the gallery space inmind. (The gallery is 34ft x 14ft x 27ft high. The walls are made ofgrey limestone blocks.)
Each piece was created using old, worn, and sometimes discardedobjects such as saws, old tools, wooden chairs, bed frames, old sportsequipment, and plastic toy balls. I found these objects in fleamarkets, garage sales, and on the roadside. These objects were groupedbased on aesthetic and thematic decisions. The objects were at timesdeformed or mutilated but ultimately were put together with screws andbolts to form a previously determined basic shape. The irregularvariety of objects created irregular and unanticipated shapes andprotrusions that were intentional. When the structures were completed,they were wrapped with a single piece of fabric that ripped in placeswhere the tension between the object and the fabric was extreme. Thefabric was stretched even tighter by closing the seams with thousandsof safety pins.
Taking a Closer Look:Although ultimately I closed off the structured spaces by wrappingthe objects, it is important that one can still walk around and underthe structures. Also, because the fabric is partially transparent andbecause some of the objects are breaking through the fabric, the vieweris not left in complete doubt. Instead, wonder, mystery, and excitementemerges from looking at these “wonder cabinets.” The large space inwhich the pieces were shown enhanced this idea of mystery and infinitepossibilities.
When the viewer first approaches the pieces from afar, it is unclearas to what they are. As the viewer walks closer, more information isrevealed. The mysterious mixture of dangerous tools and soft invitingbulbous forms and textures that are at times humorous, urges the viewerto get closer with extreme care. Just as with viewing deformedcreatures or skeletons in a wonder cabinet, one is fascinated yetrepulsed at the same time. Wrapping the pieces also intensified thefeeling of clutter and chaotic repetition. The soft, warm, stretchyfabric contrasts the hard, cold and violent internal structures, muchlike how our skin contrasts its inner skeleton. That the structures arereminiscent of flesh and bones allows the viewer to relate to thepieces as organic entities like themselves. The weight of the objectscontrasts the lightweight exterior, causing some of the objects tomysteriously float within their skins. The tension between the objectsbursting or about to burst from the fabric plays a roll in addingmovement and energy to the pieces. The safety pins speak as temporaryand universally reliable yet still potentially dangerous objects. Thepins barely prevent the objects within from bursting outward. Inaddition, the pins add to the visual language of the pieces by havingthe appearance of stitches or scars on skin; of pain against softflesh. All of these tensions and contradictions played a large roll innaming my thesis “Bound.”
Conceptual Basis and Outside Sources:Conceptually, there were many different components that went into mydecisions for the series as well as each individual piece. Overall, Iwas initially very interested in the nostalgic aspect of personalcollections and clutter, as well as the implications of tightlywrapping and creating a partially translucent barrier around an object.These fundamental ideas come from my interest in Renaissance wondercabinets and their modern counterparts (museums with exotic artifactsas described in the book, “Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder”). Afterreading about Renaissance wonder cabinets, I envisioned the tightlypacked rooms of exotic items being so chaotic and cluttered that theroom appeared to be made out of the objects themselves. I took thisidea and applied it to contemporary times as well as my personalinterests. I was influenced by my own tendencies to be a pack rat andstuff my closet and garage with collections ranging from shells andpebbles to deer antlers and old baseball bats. Being a terrible packrat combined with my fascination with the nostalgia derived from oldfarm houses and barns filled with old rusted tools and furniture helpedform my final idea. I loved the idea of walking into a closet-likespace filled with collections of smells, memories, and visualsensations. Other childhood influences that helped fuel my interest increating interactive sculpture include my love of playgrounds and myobsessive search for coins or what I thought was buried treasure insideof a store while my mother shopped.
After completing my first piece, I discovered that many of my workswere self portraits. I read the breaks in the skin of the fabric alsoas a metaphor for how I broke through being overly shy to discoveringhow fun it was to find an unexpected and outgoing personality withinme.
Another aspect of my work that developed later on is contributed inlarge part to the addition of the plastic balls in both of the indoorhanging pieces (pink and yellow). The bulbous protrusions contrast theedged protrusions, creating an element of humor that is heightened bythe ambiguous genders of each piece. The curvaceous forms are bothseducing yet threatening when one walks closer to see its neighborriddled with saws pointing in your direction. The pieces are meant toboth coax the viewer to enter or crawl inside them while at the sametime threaten them if they come too close to the sharp jagged edges inthe pieces. The play with light and shadow from the shifting naturallight helps enhance this aspect of the piece while at the same timeadding mystery. Lastly, the extent to which the pieces became organicwas not originally anticipated. Whereas before I was thinking moreabout rooms and abstract spaces, over time, the pieces transformedthemselves into bodies more than rooms.
Outside artistic influences also played a part in my thoughtprocesses. Before I knew for sure what I was interested in exploring, Iwould look at every artist I could think of. Once I started narrowingdown my ideas, I concentrated more on assemblage and accumulationartists fascinated with form and content as well as artists that workedwith maximalist principles. Artists like Louise Bourgeois, JosephCornell, Kurt Schwitters, Edward Kienholz, Daniel Spoerri, Arman, andJohn Chamberlain all addressed ideas some aspect of maximalism as theyused found objects in many of their pieces. Near the end of my process,I discovered Lee Bontecou’s work, and after reading a book about her, Ifound that she was exploring similar fundamental ideas as well.Although her pieces from the 1960’s were more like reliefs, theelements of violence, wrapping, and construction that she applied toher semi-organic works were extremely fascinating to me.