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Cultural Self Portrait in Wire

In my Space and Materiality class, we created a cultural self portrait out of wire. Reading about this assignment a few weeks ago, I was concerned how I would approach this project because I have never made art with wire before.

Before confronting my lack of experience in the medium, I first picked an image that represented my cultural identity and then drew elements of the photograph that I could construct with wire. Initially, I made sketches that were too complex and intricate on a technical level. Additionally, I tried to include too many symbols that were not clear and muddied the meaning. On the second sketch, I simplified the symbolism and solidified the form.

Skateboarding demands poses and posturing that is not natural to the human body. The way I bend and contort as I launch myself through the air or down a hill is far from relaxed. In my final structural sketch, I drew my body as a single s- shaped line. I wanted to include musical symbolism and also imply the contorted nature of my body when I skate. As I was constructing the body, I realized that the single line would not be strong enough to hold together the rest of the body. To hold its form while adding to the energetic nature of the piece, I added copper wire that flowed loosely over the body to retain structural integrity.

It was important to me to instill a sense of movement in the sculpture. I used the silver wire to mimic the motion blur from the original photograph. I purposely kept the outline rough and slightly offset to convey motion blur from the image.

I drew inspiration from Alexander Calder’s work when I began constructing the two morphed heads on the sculpture. The features of the face merge together and the eyes dangle lightly from the curly hair. This helped continue the symbolism of motion, but it also represents a sense of confusion and disconnection from myself and other pieces of my culture. I do not have a rich family history to shape my understanding of culture, which leaves me looking for a culture to call mine.

Midway through constructing the feet, I decided to suspend the skateboard in mid-air. From a skateboarder’s perspective, it is a moment of flight and transition. The sculpture is flying through the air and is about to touch back down on the ground, but is not quite there yet. I liked the uncertainty implied in that movement. Since the sculpture is almost larger than life, putting pressure on any part of the sculpture will make the whole piece move and bounce, mimicking the natural movement of a skateboarder.

I was not expecting to make something this large with a medium I have no experience in. However, as I began working, I felt that a miniature would not get my point across. The final product stayed faithful to the model sketch, but its sheer size and dimension was surprising. Although it was difficult to transport my wire sculpture down the street without being scolded by strangers, I am happy with the final piece and I would love to work with wire in the future.


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