Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Elephant No. 84: Feature Artist Lindsay Pichaske

Detail from Pecking Order by Lindsay Pichaske, 2011.
Low-fire ceramic, sunflower seeds, beet dye and acrylic paint.
Photo: Lindsay Pichaske

I originally came across Lindsay Pichaske's work a couple of months back. On first glance, I was taken with the forms and how beautifully she evokes the animals she creates. Then I looked a little closer, and was astonished at the intricacy of both technique and materials.

Generally starting with a realistic ceramic animal form, she applies tens of thousands of labour-intensive materials such as glass beads, sunflower seeds, fibres, sequins and silk flower petals. While you'd think that would result in some sort of kitschy novelty work, Lindsay Pichaske's pieces are all stunningly beautiful, and rather haunting in their depictions of the animals she chooses.

Detail from The Long Thaw by Lindsay Pichaske, 2013.
Low-fired ceramic, hand-dyed artificial flower petals, paint and resin.
Photo: Sean Scheidt

On her website, Pichaske writes of her work:
What separates human from animal? What borders exist between real and imagined, beautiful and repugnant, animate and inanimate? 

Through the act of making, I swim in and around these margins, exploring how slippery the answers to these questions are. I create animals that blur boundaries. They challenge the perceived order and comfortable classifications of life. These animals are tricksters; familiar but also alien, seductive but also scary, animal but also human, alive but also dead. In a world where petals mimic fur and hair impersonates bone, even materials upset their expected roles.

Where You End and I Begin by Lindsay Pichaske, 2012
Low-fired ceramic and rooster feathers.
Photo: Robert MacInnis

When asked in a recent interview how she chooses materials for the "skin" of an animal, she said:
For some pieces, I know exactly what I will use. For others I have to do a bit of experimenting and exploring. I usually start with a notion of the texture and color I want for that particular creature. From there I collect tons of different materials and test them out to see how they will arrange themselves across the surface. The material has to undergo some sort of transformation and become something more beautiful and interesting to me as it multiplies on the surface. I have to fall in love with it and be able to learn from it, otherwise I will not be interested enough to spend so much time with it.
To see more of Lindsay Pichaske's work, click here.

Pecking Order by Lindsay Pichaske, 2011.
Low-fire ceramic, sunflower seeds, beet dye and acrylic paint.
The sections dyed red indicate vulnerable areas on an elephant.
Photo: Lindsay Pichaske

Elephant Lore of the Day
While contemplating the intricacy of Lindsay Pichaske's work, it occurred to me—surprisingly, for the first time ever—that I had no idea how many muscles there are in an elephant's body.

The answer is interesting. Although the elephant's body has 394 skeletal muscles, the trunk on its own is estimated to have up to 40,000 individual muscles, divided into 100,000–150,000 individual units. Not only that, but these muscles are oriented every which-way, making the trunk highly manoeuvrable in any direction.

By contrast, the number of muscles in a house cat is 517—an astonishing 60 of which are in their ears—while a human adult has just 639.

The closest thing to an elephant's trunk—but with way fewer individual units:
the Festo Bionic Handling Assistant, which won the German Future Award in 2010.

To Support Elephant Welfare

No comments:

Post a Comment