For our piece called “No Such As What I Want,” we created two distinct spaces – one above ground and one below. Our concept was to have a forlorn woman in a metaphoric shack. The ground beneath her would be entangled roots intertwining objects of her past. This piece was for the “Troublesome Houses” group show honoring musical legend Will Oldham, curated by fellow artist, Kevin Titzer and exhibited at Louisville Visual Art Association (LVAA), Kentucky’s oldest arts organization.
The above ground part of this set build was detailed in the post “A Troublesome House.”To start, I created a number of roots using Magic Sculpt and hair. The inside of all the roots was 14g wire to add strength and prevent breakage.
Creating the wire structure for the roots.
The next step was to cover the wire with air-dry Magic-Sculpt. I covered the ends with acrylic hair and used clay to hold the hair in place. (Hair is sold in packs at wig stores.) I added many of these clumps to the bottom of each Y to create root branching. The amount of clay needed to hold the hair in place varied, but it was the equivalent of dragging wet bubblegum through hair, only less traumatic.
Attaching fake hair to create root ends.
To add offshoots to the upper root stem, I cut 6-8″ of acrylic hair & add clay around a center point. I pushed this onto the root stem like a mustache. At this point I needed to make a funny face because laughing is important. I added really wet clay to the hair & drug it to the ends to make more stems. This was repeated endlessly until I ran out of coffee.
Creating root branching is serious bidnez.
The roots created were actually quiet lovely, although many told me they looked like cat poop. This choice was theirs alone as I prefer to look at the positive side of life.
Roots up close.
Magic Sculpt is an amazing air-dry clay that allows a lot of flexibility in sculpting. These were fungus flowers I made, but that we never used.
Unused fungus tops. (above) / The thickest parts of the roots. (below)
The next step was to take these roots into our studio and start “planting” them. We created a shallow table-top trough that we lined with black, contractor grade, plastic garbage bags. We poured a layer of dirt on top of the plastic liner and then placed the plant roots & “burlap tubers of worry” inside. The burlap sacks were filled with packing peanuts so they were very easy to push around until we got the shapes we wanted. We also filled a random amount of grocery bags with peanuts and placed these UNDER the black contractor garbage bags. We could then easily reach under the contractor bags & move the peanut filled grocery bags as needed to support the objects & lift the dirt. This also helped create a sense that the earth was very deep when in fact it was not.
Table top set up for our underground shoot.
Below shows how much the fake hair looked like those fine roots at the end of many plants.
Details of our “Tubers of Worry” that were elements within a much larger scene.
The next part of this shoot was to photograph a wide array of vintage objects that would reside underground alongside the “tubers of worry.” We carefully chose objects that would be recognizable to most viewers and kept their meaning vague to allow room for interpretation. A spray bottle made the top dirt darker without causing a muddy mess.
The final piece below, “No Such As What I Want,” shows how all these elements came together below ground.
“No Such As What I Want,” part of the Troublesome Houses exhibit honoring music legend Will Oldham.