This past winter was my first in Minnesota and boy was it cold. Instead of taking up snow sports, I spent the cold days inside perched over my laptop typing up grant proposals. The long hours in front of a computer screen paid off when, this summer, I received not one, but two, prestigious grants from the East Central Regional Arts Council. The first grant is the ECRAC McKnight Fellowship Grant, a program designed to recognize, reward, and encourage outstanding professional artists. This has afforded me the opportunity to make a new body of work titled Restriction, Perfection*. The second, the ECRAC Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund Grant provides an opportunity for me to present this work in an open to the public performance The Other Side of Beauty** which will take in May of 2016.
Since receiving the grants I've been a busy little bee working away and I haven't shared too much info about the project yet. Well I'm ready to share so here goes!
In May I announced a Call for Movement Artists that read:
"I will make rubber molds of 5 artists' various body parts to cast in iron. Using these iron casts much like a tailor uses dress forms I will forge elegant, curvilinear steel sculptures around each of them. When placed back on the artists' body these steel forms will wrap around and immobilize muscular and skeletal structures, for example: the spine, ribcage, or hips. I will invite these artists to explore how to move despite the physical disabilities the sculptures impose. The entire process will be documented and there will be a final performance showcasing the finished work."
I was shocked when that call received more than 30 inquiries. After reviewing video reels, resumes, and letters of intent from each of these movers, I selected 6 to participate in my upcoming project.
During my initial meeting with each of these women I shared my story - bits of my past that serve as the impetus for this work (you can read about some of that in my Bio and Artist Statement in the ABOUT section). Each woman opened up and shared her own stories about her body, mind, and why she wanted to join this project. I listened to each of their stories in awe of their trust and authenticity. Within minutes of meeting, we were talking about some of our toughest and most painful memories. I was honored and humbled to be surrounding by such inspiring women.
As they shared their stories, we discussed what parts of their bodies they'd like to explore manipulating through this project, for some it was a body part they couldn't imagine moving without, for others, a part that has caused them physical and/or emotional pain. And that's when Phase 1 began. Below is the trajectory of the whole project. For photos of the process so far take a look at the tab Works In Progress.
Phase 1: Gettin' Slimed
Once we identified the body part each would be exploring over the next year, I made a rubber mold of it, through a messy and fun process involving a green goop much like Slime on Nickelodeon.
Phase 2: The Plaster Disaster
After making the green slime I needed to create positives so I filled each mold with plaster. After creating a few big, plaster puddles, I had a set of body parts that matched those the dancers had identified as ones they'd like to manipulate.
Phase 3: Sand Storm
Now that I had the positive forms in plaster, it was time to make negative forms again so I packed sand around these forms. The sodium silicate sand is mixed with a resin and catalyst to make it hard and strong - so strong you can drill through it! There are a lot of little, and crucial steps, that happen throughout the sand mold-making process but the important thing you need to know is that the sand creates a cavity inside it to cast iron into.
Phase 4: Iron Casting
The sand molds are filled with iron and after I clean them all up I'll be left with iron casts of the dancers' body parts.
Phase 5: Forging Away
I'll be mounting these iron forms using them as anvils to shape and bend steel forms around. The steel forms will transform into wearable sculptures.
Phase 6: Playtime
The steel sculptures will go back onto the original dancers' bodies, restricting the range of motion of the body part that the dancer's chose during our first meeting. Over the course of three months of rehearsals, I will lead the dancers through explorations of how the sculptures' restrictions create new ways of moving, reimagining what their bodies are capable of and redefining their perceptions of their own bodies.
Phase 7: Lights, camera, action
Finally, Memorial Day Weekend, May 2016 I will present this work to the public and you're all invited to come watch!
In the end, the work is intended to strike up conversations about body image as well as ability and disability as they pertain to the mind and the body. The performance will invite the viewer to question how physically altered states translate to the psyche and the ways in which psychological states manifest themselves physically. I'll continue to add updates to my blog and website as the project progresses so check back often. And stay tuned for more details about the performances The Other Side of Beauty coming May 2016. - it's going to be a BIG year!
*Restriction, Perfection is made possible by a fellowship from the East Central Regional Arts Council (ECRAC) with funds appropriated by The McKnight Foundation.
**The Other Side of Beauty is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the East Central Regional Arts council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.