Related By Blood

There is one question that almost always comes up about the Slim series during an opening or artist talk.

People are curious about the long, red threads that are part of each sculpture.

Self Fish, 2007

These uncut, crimson strands are a convention that began with the very first figure, stitched over a decade ago.  Initially I wanted a colour that would contrast nicely with the unbleached cotton muslin that I use for the figures’ “skin”, a colour where the lines of stitching that delineated the interior hand contours could be readily seen.  I could have chosen black, or brown, or grey, any dark shade that might be seen as a a stand in for ink or pencil lines.

I chose red.

I don’t recall there being much contemplation on the matter.  Considering the surgical construction of the figures from body parts (I always feel slightly Dr. Frankenstein when I’m working), scar-let seemed the natural choice.  My decision to leave the thread ends unclipped was influenced by several factors.

Leaving this element of the figure raw and “unfinished” was a nice counterpoint to the rest of the sculpture, which is infinitely detailed and meticulously finished.

For me, the long threads also act as an antidote to the craftiness of the work – without this distinguishing feature, they are too much like dolls.

Thirdly, the threads are a deliberate reference to blood, bloodletting, and bloodshed.  On my studio wall is an image – a colour photocopy that I found when I was researching the history of dogs in art (1996).  Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t think to write down any information about the image; what year it was painted and by whom.

Compelling narrative aside, it is a captivating visual and the way the blood is illustrated – spurting out in thread-like arcs – has always held my fascination.

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