Artist: Dorothy Boyd
Completion Date: Feb. 16, 2015
Place of Creation: my desk at home
Style: sculpture, Genre: (half) mask
Material: polymer clay, air-dry clay, flat back Swarovski elements, acrylic paint
Link to (photo) documentation: http://naaavet.tumblr.com/post/111306557281/epilogue
While investigating the Wilson web links under Body and Medicine, I discovered the work of Emily Watson, who creates jewelry designs incorporating imagery of the human body, both internal and external. Around the same time, I also learned about forensic entomology, which applies the study of insects to crime investigation. By investigating the types of insects present in a decaying body, and the stage of growth they have reached, forensic scientists can more accurately approximate the victim’s time of death. This concept of measuring death by using life, and the body-themed jewelry designs by Watson, were my main inspirations for this midterm project.
Epilogue is a half-mask based on the early stages of human decomposition, where the body’s skin fades, and insects rapidly arrive to feed and reproduce. Blow flies (Calliphoridae), which typically are the fastest insects to locate decaying bodies, decorate the mask. The blow fly’s life cycle is illustrated with their presence in the work at three stages–egg, larva, and adult–as they aid in breaking down body matter by arriving to lay eggs, nourishing themselves, then repeating the process. The mask is sculpted from air-dry clay, and painted grayish blues and purples in acrylic to reflect the change in skin color upon death. The adorning flies, larvae, and eggs are all hand-sculpted using polymer clays. Red Swarovski crystals form the adult flies’ eyes.
The mask, a wearable object, unites the wearer’s body with the work and extends its discussion of the human body as acting out the role of a home and nourishment for other organisms upon death. I chose to create a half-mask specifically to create a juxtaposition between the living wearer’s face on the right and the death imagery on the left– a contrast of life and death consistent with that in the mask itself, where the life cycle of the blow fly plays out upon graying, decomposing flesh. The gentle blues, pinks, and purples of the face, along with the elegant metallic paints and crystals on the flies, further contrast with the death imagery to achieve a balance between the simultaneous beauty and gruesomeness of the decomposition process. The depiction of decomposition is sufficiently graphic and detailed to unsettle, and delicate enough to attract the viewer.