Saturday, January 18, 2014

Clowning Around

Every year my Alma Mater holds an Illustration theme show that all illustration students, alumni, and faculty can submit artwork to. This year's theme was Circus, a choice which definitely piqued my interest. I don't really paint or draw much anymore as my interests have focused firmly on costuming which I'm much more talented at but I still wanted to submit something. Inspired by an old black and white photo of a circus around the turn of the century I created a pair of rotund little clowns.

It took an almost all-nighter the day before they were due (my own fault for procrastinating) but I pulled it off! This isn't my first foray into doll making, but it was my first time experimenting with some of these materials. I hand sculpted the faces and feet out of sculpey clay and used gloss varnish and enamel paints to make them look more like porcelain.

The base of their bodies are four inch styrofoam balls which made my last minute rush of finishing them go so smoothly. I realized because of the styrofoam I could pin their clothing on instead of sewing it all together by hand around the ball. The pins are all hidden.

All in all I couldn't be more pleased with how they came out! And I'm very proud of myself for actually submitting to a gallery for the first time in a couple years. As an artist who views the costuming work I make equally important as the paintings I used to make, galleries are a challenge. Most wouldn't view my work as artwork suitable for a gallery setting. I've submitted a costume to a gallery before (at the request of the gallery owner even!) only to have the curator of the exhibit "decide against having costumes in the gallery."

While the clowns aren't really a costume I include them under the branch of "fiber arts" that I've been leaning more toward lately. Usually relegated to the realm of "craft" rather than "art," fiber arts covers a variety of disciplines such as quilting, crocheting, felting, sewing, and basically anything you can make with fabric, thread, or yarn. While some sculpture artists may work with these mediums and be featured in galleries the vast majority are just seen as crafters peddling wares at local fairs and boutiques. A large part of the reason these particular mediums are seen as craft is because they are often utilitarian and usually the domain of women.

I hope in the future to be able to show my costumes and other work in more galleries. I don't want to feel like I have to pull out the dusty old paints and canvas any time I'm invited to submit to a gallery. I'm going to be proud of the medium I have chosen to work with and hope that my small contributions can help redefine the "craft" label that has been slapped over it.

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