As part of the preparations for the show I was in this spring, I had to measure some of my sculptures. Maybe I should have done it sooner, but it was never a priority for me. I have tended to just say that they’re “life-size,” and people have tended to accept that answer.
I’m not keen on weighing myself either; I let my doctor do it once a year. At my current height, which I’m told is average, I have been both worrisomely thin and clinically obese. Neither of those extremes was particularly comfortable. These days I’m somewhere in the middle, and mostly pretty comfortable there.
People often comment on the sizes and shapes of my sculptures. One early visitor to my studio muttered under her breath about “those perfect little bodies.” The picture at the top of this post is the littlest and most “perfect” of the adult-sized pieces. She was made using a bare department store mannequin as a form. She’s also one who’s the least happy about her size and shape. When I took her down to measure her, I could almost hear her wail of dismay as I recorded that her hips are wider than her shoulders.
She was born from an observation I made to a therapist I was seeing 10 years ago, that I felt like I had a wire cage inside my body. So of course she had to be smaller than me. It wasn’t my original intention to have a conversation with myself about my flirtation with anorexia, but over the years she has come to represent that as well.
They never end up being about only one thing.
As I’ve started to think about representing some of the experiences I’ve had in the last few years, I’ve become less interested in pushing my body towards some unattainable ideal and more interested in how people actually look. I’m interested in accurately portraying middle-aged sagginess. As it turns out, that’s hard to do with a department store mannequin. It takes a lot of padding and a lot of time. At some point, it becomes faster and easier to make a plaster cast of an actual torso. So I asked a friend to help me make a cast of myself, which I plan to use as a form for the next few sculptures I want to make.
Here’s a peek at my first attempt:
This is one of the ways that a healthy 45-year-old body can look. The only comment I’ve heard about it so far has been (from two different women) “Hey, those are my breasts!” I like it.
If someone wants to complain about this shape, she’ll have to deal with the plump round ass that spawned it (and that once pulled a fire truck across a parking lot) pushing her out the door of my studio. Or maybe, if I’m feeling more generous, I’ll offer to cover her in plaster and help her tell the truth about her own body and what goes on inside it.