Extending my work with the female form in an effort to depict fertility or the lack of fertility resulted in an exploration into anthropomorphic rotten vegetables. These were cast in pristine white. Inspired by Kim Pace’s ‘A Fantastic Fermentation of Matter’ and Helen Chadwick’s ‘Carcass’ this is an attempt to expiate the rotten in our lives and give the event importance, an attempt undermined by the uncanny quirky nature of the forms.
My collection of narratives from women fall into many categories. One theme is women’s relationship with their choice/ability to have or not to have children. There were four overlapping categories: Women with no children who were happy to be “child-free”, women with children who were happy to have them, women who wanted children but who were “childless”, and finally women who had children but who were dispirited by the experience. I wondered if there was a way to visualise these four types (while understanding how many women would fall into more than one category within a life span and how women relate to each other while in different categories).
More and more is being understood about how the fungi under the soil communicates information to allow life above the soil to flourish. It felt to me a metaphor of how the women around me communicate with each other, especially the little kindnesses that allow us to survive our day to day existence. I had already been working with the natural life and decay within a compost heap and began to save vegetables to morph into anthropomorphic forms that depicted in a theatrical pose the levels of joy and grief of the four types of women listed above.
Each of the four forms is made using vegetable matter and a small amount of clay. Some have been cast using a silicone mould while others have been built slowly using the casting material (Jesmonite) to directly form the shapes over the vegetable matter. The discs were professionally cut using 6mm steel. I then welded the discs on to rods bent at various angles in order to create a horizontal platform.
It made utter sense to return the four vegetable forms, now encased in pristine white, to the bottom of the garden, presented on their own bending steel “trees” buried into the ground. I imagine their roots stretching out towards each other. The steel “trees” are new and dark in colour. They fade into the autumn leaves while the bright white of the figures stand out illuminatingly. Come winter the dark steel will rust to a brilliant red while the white figures will dull. I hope for snow as the contrast will be interesting. Come spring the bluebells will contrast with the rusted steel… the area often floods… time will bring interesting developments.
Although this forest is private land, I did not want to impose too much on the environment. But obviously the steel “trees” are very heavy and required a counter weight to allow them to bend and sway without falling over. I calculated the amount of leverage I would need, used a small amount of cement to place the rods and used movable stone slabs (that I had already) to weight the rods in. One rod is resting against a natural lip in a tree trunk. Over time I expect the tree to grown around the disc.
My aim was to visualise four states of fertility as described in the narratives collected: child-free, childless, child-frustrated, child-joyous, and to depict these states as flawed but beautiful, an attempt to expiate the rotten in our lives and give the event, whatever it is, importance. I was drawn to kitchen food waste as I noticed the beauty of a decaying aubergine.
I created the forms in various ways and I learnt a great deal about casting and the materials I used. The forms became something other than the four narratives I was trying to depict, however, this development took the work away from the theatrical and into an uncanny realm, where the forms became strange and humorous. The viewer wouldn’t necessarily link them to fertility or even realise, unless they had a keen eye, that they were created from vegetables.
The most successful elements were the steel “trees” which are interesting things all on their own and I look forward to watching them rust…