September 9, 2018

Seven Sculptures Reimagined

"The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become."    Charles Du Bos 

All of the sculptures, with the exception of Amphitrite's Son, were begun in Taos. Several of them have objects on their head that act as an identity marker or that symbolize an emotion. As I reworked them, with the help of time and distance, I reimagined their meaning and allowed new stories and interpretations to emerge. Many of them have been retitled as well. My two-dimensional stitchwork evolved gradually from experimenting with thread on some of these.

Square Squash, paper pulp, rice paper, wood, 26"x11"x8"

Square Squash

This piece was once the top part of one sculpture titled 'The Burden of Joy' along with what is now George As King Kong underneath it. It's one of the pieces that went through different versions as I experimented with materials and techniques (including glass mosaic tiles), and is unrecognizable from its original form. I decided to make the whimsical final version using hand-cut rice paper on the surface, playing with the contrast between the squares and the organic squash shape on the head. The surface closely resembles traditional tile mosaic but it's all paper, and it sits on an elegant square base. 

George As King Kong, paper pulp, paint, rice paper, wood, 21"x10"x18"

George As King Kong

Originally the bottom part of a sculpture titled 'The Burden of Joy' with what is now Square Squash on top, I set the pug free and approached it as a portrait of my pug George who was the direct inspiration for it. I added the Kong (toy) to his head along with a crown, making the visual joke 'King Kong' that refers to his love and even obsession with toys and suggesting that it's a role he's playing or that I'm projecting on to him.

Playing Vixen, Paper pulp, paint, rice paper, wood, 25"x20"x12"

Playing Vixen

This sculpture was originally a portrait of an aspect of myself, depicting an identity story of feeling judged and shamed for my sexuality: William Tell's apple on the head as a target and the term 'vixen' used to describe a certain kind of woman. Later, I understood the piece to be a more general expression of the archetypal feminine itself attacked, Eve and the apple and its associations of sin.

For this final version, I retitled it Playing Vixen to indicate that so many of our personal identity stories and collective beliefs are not solid or true, but are instead just the roles we've been conditioned to take on. I added hand-cut rice paper leaves to the figure that represent Spring and renewal, the idea that every moment is fresh and fluid. Now the apple represents the abundance and generosity of nature.

Blue Pear, paper pulp, rice paper, thread, wood, 27"x15"x11"   

Blue Pear

This piece is similar to Playing Vixen because it's another portrait of an aspect of (and/or an emotional state about) me. Like Square Squash, it has been through many surface changes. I tried different materials: from paint to glass tiles and beads, and now in its final version, stitched thread on rice paper and small cut pieces of rice paper. 

Originally it was about my depression personified, a portrait of a seemingly fixed identity story. As I reworked it, although I didn't retitle it, I found a new understanding of it. I added the stitched ants to represent the acronym 'automatic negative thoughts', breaking up the solidity of its initial meaning and adding some humor even if it is a private joke!

Pughou, paper pulp, glass beads, rice paper, yarn, wood, 22"x8"x17"


I now understand this sculpture to be about the relationship between a human and their pet, both how we project ourselves onto our companion animals and how they reflect ourselves back to us. I began it during the Iraq war and it was originally titled Buraq after a hybrid creature from Islamic tradition because that war got me interested in Islamic culture. I wanted to make some connection to it in reaction to the overwhelming propaganda and demonization of Islam during that time but I now see that it was a much more personal piece. I changed the title to Pughou, a play on the Chinese mythological hybrid  'Penghou' which has the body of a dog with a human head.  It is based on my own pug dog, so the Chinese reference is fitting because pugs are thought to originate from China, but really it’s a self-portrait of sorts.

The surface is mostly how I made it originally except for the hair which was fabric that had faded to grey. I covered it with blue rice paper and added some yarn. I also added rice paper to the legs and feet to freshen up the color. The main body and face are covered by glass beads which I applied in my typical painstaking way (which I love) and I think it was influenced by Islamic design. This is the only sculpture from Taos with the original glass beads on the surface. 

The Passion, paper pulp, rice paper, wood, 35"x10'x19"

The Passion

Although I began this sculpture while my dog was alive, he died in 2008 and I now describe it as him in the afterlife. Putti are secular representations of passion, and toys were his passion. I imagine them playing on the 'other side', and I like the tension that it depicts of waiting and anticipation, the putti looking down, and the pug looking up. George had a favorite pink ball once that was lost in the house, I looked for it everywhere and I just couldn't find it. I now know where it went!

Originally the medium was just paint on paper pulp, with glass covering the ball, but for this final version, I added (mostly squares) of hand-cut rice paper to its entirety. 
The dog's legs were unstable and awkward, so I replaced all of the legs and added the base.

Amphitrite's Son, paper pulp, rice paper, thread, wood, 24"x11"x13"

Amphitrite's Son

This piece was begun after Taos when I lived in Portland. I originally planned to make it a glass tile mosaic like The Sacrifice of Gaza, and I started it that way but at some point, I knew that my energy enthusiasm for that process just wasn't there so I stopped working on it. I also conceived it as an anti-war piece, and it had a rocket on its head. I have the rocket and I plan to use it in a future piece, but this just wasn't the right one and it became an entirely different sculpture. I made a paper pulp shell on the head and I experimented with using a round punch for the rice paper on the face to mimic bubbles and I stitched thread shells for the hair. I consider it to be one of the transition pieces into my two-dimensional stitchwork. 


gypsy moon designs said...


Mitchell Pluto said...

excellent work Martha!!