From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

Technical Torso

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In making the figure for the current sculpture I foolishly thought I could take a mannequin or dress form and make some adjustments.  No such luck.


dress forms aren’t sturdy enough if they are hollow and the arms aren’t developed enough if they have them, and not right materials to attach arms.

modern mannequins not only have entirely the wrong poses (shoulders thrown back), dimensions, shape (corsets shape the bust differently) but they are apparently built to withstand artillery assault and therefore are too difficult to modify to be worth it.

So… I pondered various solutions.  The best seems to be getting the form in foam, then surfacing it with fiberglass or carbon-fiber and epoxy, then hollowing the foam out to make a ventilated space for the projector.  This will make it extremely light (and therefore shippable), sturdy and hollow.

At first I thought I’d carve the foam form… but working with casting and fabric gave me what I hope is a better idea.  I’m going to sew a slightly smaller version of the top the figure will be wearing in latex (at least the torso part of it).  Then spray the seams with latex to seal them, put mold release on the whole thing, turn it inside-out, seal the arm-holes and neck-hole and fill it with expanding foam.   This should create the exact form I need, and the expansion effect should keep the fabric from collapsing.  I may have to hang the whole thing from the ceiling while it sets, but I think it will work.  I can also add on more expanding foam if I need to at any point and carve into the existing foam for alterations.  Once it has got the carbon fiber on I should be able to attach anything to it. I only need the torso to the hip to achieve the form, and the rest can be a simple stand.

Ideally I want to make at least the arms and stand all detachable.  I’m thinking that plumbing parts will serve me best there- all the pieces are threaded and it’s all very sturdy.  There is a mannequin warehouse nearby where I will look for arms.  Sadly I already have the suspicion that they won’t be in the correct poses.   I may end up using some combination of mannequin arms and hands which I cast and finish myself.  Hands are so expressive that the pose needs proper attention.

I am delighted by the diversity of even the materials shopping.  The art store of course, but the hardware store, the plastics store, the fabric stores, the wig shops, costumers (for the gloves if I don’t end up making those too), Radioshack…. it’s exciting.

Once again I feel that I am finally seeing the fruit of all my diverse use of mediums and all the odd hobbies and interests.   When a project like this one comes together it is very visible.

Written by Mary Corey March

March 8, 2010 at 12:05 am

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