Early this morning, I spent an hour and a half sketching out ideas (in crayon) for my shrimp project and hunting for materials in my apartment. My main concepts were that the shrimp would have to show some sort of transition from man-made, processed materials to natural ones. I also wanted for the shrimp’s digestive tract to be visible and to emphasize that transition, as my shrimp is inspired by bacteria that can metabolize methane. I found a glow stick from Spring Fling 2011 still sitting in my freezer and decided that this would be a great beginning to the digestive tract.
A shrimp isn’t a shrimp without an exoskeleton, and I wanted for it to be clear, both for realism and to show off the internal workings of my sculpture. I had a corn-based plastic cup from getting takeout from Farm Burger on Sunday evening; I decided to use different types of clear plastic cups in the transition from more processed materials to less processed ones.
I decided to take another walk around campus to gather materials for half an hour before class. (Hilariously, I kept coming across things that I thought were my classmates’ earthwork projects: downed tree limbs with flags arranged in the branches, chairs in strange places, and a trash can with tree limbs and recyclables pouring out.) I picked up some magnolia leaves and petals for the tail, and looked for anything that resembled a claw or leg. I saw in a flash that the stems attached to the magnolia pods would be perfect.
In class, we discussed the films we were assigned to watch this weekend. During the discussion, I was struck by how localized Muniz and Goldsworthy’s projects are. Muniz’s portraits of recyclable object-pickers from Rio de Janeiro in Waste Land are made entirely of found recyclables from Rio de Janeiro. While individual items he used certainly turn up in landfills elsewhere, that particular combination of materials and subjects exists nowhere else. Goldsworthy uses similar techniques in his various stone objects, but they look different in each location. He uses the rocks that are already in a space to make his stone eggs and walls, and those will be different from place to place. The different types of stones require different handling, despite the fact that Goldsworthy is using the same techniques. Because of all of this localization, the stone sculptures fit in their spaces well and look distinct from each other.
I’m interested in shrimp as a type of creature that exists virtually everywhere, but my project will necessarily be grounded in Decatur, if only because I’m using materials that I found here. This is something I’ll have to be mindful of as I build the shrimp.
Toward the end of class, I asked, “Can I plan my dinner around things I want to use in my project?”
Excuses to eat seafood and call it homework do not come along every day. Yes, I picked through the materials Professor Ruby had set out for us to use, but I headed out to Your Dekalb Farmer’s Market soon after class. I bought the crab legs pictured above, and also found a tar-covered chunk of asphalt in one of the parking lot medians that looked just right for my project. I got some strange looks for taking it, but I’m delighting in these moments of discovering something that just fits, or might. It elevates the ordinary (or even ugly) to the status of potential art, and puts me in the position of constantly seeking out interesting things that just might belong. It’s the same thing that happened with the tree limbs on campus: I was looking for art, and I found it in all sorts of places.
(I do not recommend eating crab legs with an eye toward using them for an art project. Getting them clean enough to use takes absurdly careful eating, repeated rinsing, boiling, and meticulous picking. It just ruins dinner. I spent 3 hours getting the crab parts cleaned to my satisfaction, and wound up with very little that would be usable.)