New Sculpture

Recently I began a body of work I have been wanting to make for a long time. I had envisioned the nest figures from my Right to Remain Human show as sculptures. I have been saving bits of twine, sticks, and old clothes in a bag in the garage to begin experimenting with new media. It seems like it shouldn’t take so long to find time to try something, but I’m involved in a lot of activities and projects, and I get a lot of ideas for new things, so sometimes an idea waits in line for a while.
Nest Baby by Kim Vanderheiden
Once the time was ripe for this one, I started making my prototype, a smaller version of the sculptures I had been envisioning. For my model, I used my earlier drawing from the cover of the Words that Glimmer book.





The beginnings of the sculpture bore little resemblance to the human form. I sat on the floor, perplexed and amused, surrounded by grape vines, sticks, twine, and old clothing. I picked up a curvy branch and held it to other branches, deciding: what could shape the spine? Hips? Shoulders? Ribcage?
At first it looked more alien than human. This took place in my home studio, and family members walked in as I worked and wondered what I was doing. The expressions on their faces looked…sometimes worried. Confused. Querulous. “What IS it?” they asked.
As time progressed, thankfully, the sculpture began to take shape. I felt like Dr. Frankenstein.
Once the figure resembled the human form, I began to apply papier mâché with mulberry paper and wheat paste. Originally, I was planning on wrapping the entire figure, but at 3 am, I ran out of wheat paste and went to bed.
The next morning, I made some new wheat paste on my way out of the house, intending to finish the sculpture later. I happened that day to be in the company of the granddaughter of a friend, fellow artist and printmaker Lila Warhaftig. I showed her photos of the sculpture in progress because I had used paper from her grandmother’s studio.
sculpture prototype by Kim Vanderheiden
It is frequently part of my artistic process to discuss my work with other people, and in the course of my conversation with her, the value of the twigs, the clothes, and the twine being exposed in places became apparent to both of us.
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