Medium: Clay Sculpture
I was definitely more confident in the idea of this project than in the execution of it, “it” being the first clay creature thing I’ve made since middle school (Conclusion: Sculpting skills have not noticeably improved). Here’s the idea: Sculptures are generally made to look as if they are one uniform entity. Additionally, a clay sculpture of an animal usually doesn’t appear to be aware that it is a clay animal or to have any opinion regarding its state of existence.
To challenge the first point, I decided to expose a common tactic sculptors utilize to cut down on the amount of clay necessary and to reduce the weight of the finished product. The body of my “clay” dragon mostly isn’t clay at all; it’s a ball of aluminum foil with a thin shell of Sculpey molded around it. Rather than disguising this “cheat,” I left half of the dragon’s body exposed so that the aluminum is visible. Just as Scott McCloud uses a comic to analyze the properties of a comic and the Daffy Duck cartoon draws attention to common elements of its medium by playing with the conventions of color, slapstick comedy, and varying depth of field, the exposed side of the clay dragon draws attention to the medium of sculpture itself and suggests that the finished product isn’t always what it externally seems to be.
|I left half of the dragon’s body exposed so that the aluminum is visible. The exposed side of the clay dragon draws attention to the medium of sculpture itself and suggests that the finished product isn’t always what it externally seems to be.|
The Daffy cartoon goes beyond simply exploring its medium. Daffy Duck’s character is aware that he is a cartoon, arguing with the artist and complaining about his salary. I wish I hadn’t spilled so much glitter all over the dragon so quickly, because my favorite part of my idea isn’t as clear as it could be. The dragon is supposed to be licking the glitter off of its back. The space around its tongue is a bit bare and its tongue is covered in its own scales. Maybe the dragon isn’t going to stop at just the glitter. Maybe it already peeled the clay off its left side and wishes it was just a ball of aluminum foil. Human artists aren’t always comfortable in their own skin, so it follows that not all pieces of artwork should be.
|Dragon licking the glitter scales off its own back.|
Self-aware art is so interesting. I once saw a drawing of a girl sketching in her own eye, as if she was in the process of creating herself. The possible specific commentaries made by art that draws attention to its own creation are endless. I’d like to think that if a skilled sculptor took up my idea, that the finished product would make the viewer feel sad or thoughtful. I’d like to think that the dragon would be silently saying, “I don’t want to be me.” Or it could be begging the viewer to consider the heart beneath its exterior. There is more than one way you could interpret it.
But of course, the art isn’t literally self-aware. Daffy’s arguments with the artist are still the creation of the artist, and the sketch of a girl didn’t actually draw itself. So the art is ultimately still a medium through which the artist is able to externalize an observation, an idea, or a piece of herself. With the latter purpose, perhaps self-aware art is the most thinly-veiled, most vulnerable form of self-expression. Maybe the person who drew the girl drawing her own eye is in the process of creating themselves. Maybe the sculptor of the dragon sometimes wishes she could peel away her exterior appearance, mannerisms, race, habits, gender and all of the attached expectations and just allow people to see the core of her personality, the endless aspects of herself that never make it to the surface. Wow, that’s vulnerability. It’s easier to make that point with a dragon, which, being clay and foil, is a tool that doesn’t mind being sculpted into any expression of its maker’s heart.