Group Critique

This week I spoke to my peers for feedback with my progress so far in the module. I explained to them how I was looking to explore the boundaries women and people of colour experience in the art world.  I feel that as my peers are part of the art world they would be able to resonate with or at least understand my point.

I described to them what kind of work I wanted to produce using vac-forming, and in response my peers came back to me with a selection of ideas:

  • One of my peers suggested I used a ready made set of features such as face or hands to make moulds of. We discussed this but I feel the amount of detail I want to capture would be more than I would be able to get from a ready made model.
  • Another of my peers suggested that I could try and use a heated material such as plastic in a similar way to vac forming however I could do it manually, such as pushing my hands/face/body features into the heated material and then letting it cool. This seems like it could produce an interesting effect.
  • Generally my peers felt that the idea was strong and that it could produce an interesting outcome, however they all felt that the final piece may need an accompanying statement to make sure the point was clear to the viewer, in a non-patronising, educating way.

I feel that all of these points are valid and I shall be exploring different ways to create my final piece, such as ‘manual vac forming’ and I shall also be thinking about what kind of accompanying statement or features of my work that will explain to the audience what boundary I’m trying to represent.

Exploring my concept

To create this piece of work I must be able to show why I have chosen the concept and what contextual references and relevant practitioners have inspired me.

So, why have I chosen this concept?

I have chosen to look at the place of women and people of colour in the art would because I am a woman and I feel that this issue involves me – to challenge the typically ‘all male, all white’ art industry women including myself must attempt to cross the boundaries of restriction set in front of us, to fight for the right to create, and to do so without restrictions.

To begin proper research into this concept I started looking at why there are still so few ‘successful’ female artists.

I came across an article by The Independent in which German post-war artist Georg Baselitz commented that “Women don’t paint very well. It’s a fact,” (Clark, 2013). The article details how Baselitz has dismissed women artists despite facts and figures that disagree with his statement. 


Jackson Pollock, American born painter, argued during his time that he ‘..could run rings around you with great women artists but there isn’t space in the cultural imagination.’ (Clark, 2013).

Pollock refers to the cultural imagination, a general opinion that has been formed by the repeated celebration of white male artwork against the repeated ignoring of female/POC artwork. Due to the art industry retaining their male dominated space in society, society itself has come to believe that there is a reason for this. Society has come to believe that if male artwork is always being displayed it must be for a reason, it must be because it is better. This is the opinion I am working against.

Although Baselitz’s argument is a matter of opinion rather than facts his quote caused controversy as quotes like this are part of the reason the boundary women are up against exists. There is no room for change in the art industry unless artists who are active in the industry fight against the outdated boundary.

In the article many artists, both current and deceased argue for and against the point of women painters not being as talented as their male counterparts.

This article is one of many reasons I feel that the artwork I am to produce must be forceful in it’s concept, it must be unsympathetic towards the boundary it aims to breakdown, approaching the gender bias in a similar way to the way the Guerrilla Girls did. I am driven to create this work by the opinion of male artists who believe that talent lies in biological gender and not in practised skill or born talent.

As I am already well aware of the bias against women and people of colour I have chosen from this point to focus more on the counterargument that comes from women and people of colour, rather than the already too well broadcast opinion of women and POC not being ‘good enough’.

I am well acquainted with a female duo who call themselves The White Pube. They are an art criticism collective who run mostly residencies to showcase art produced by minorities. Each week they review an exhibition or body of work in such a way that draws attention to cultural backgrounds, social issues and the artist themselves, their aim as a duo is to be different to the steady stream of monotonous art reviews that only scratch the surface of a works meaning, and only review it if it is deemed popular or easy on the eye, or more interestingly – created by a man.

For September 2016 their resident artist was Rene Matic. Rene is a 20 year old painter residing in Liverpool with her wife, her work is based around the fact that she is black, female and part of the LGBT+ community, and the issues she faces as a person of all of these qualities.

Rene’s work was featured in an exhibition The White Pube curated titled The Leaf of Pablo. The idea behind the exhibition was that artists were reclaiming what was local and personal to them. Rene wrote a short essay that detailed how being a black woman in the stereotypically white male art world felt.

Brown girl in the art world.

Do you remember catching sight of your mum after loosing her in the supermarket? That soft landing when you see her down the isle and you are safe. This is the way it feels when seeing another brown girl in a room full of white people… Safe.

My favourite poem is by a great friend of mine, Jemima Khalli. Someone who gives me that safe feeling.

There is an awareness within us
of one another
tying eyes

when we cross footpaths
and sinking into where we are

– women of colour

When you are a woman of colour you are a part of something so so soft. A link in a chain. Hand in hand, always. Being 6 years old, alone down the cereal isle in Aldi is how it feels, for me, to be alone in a room of white people.

Actually, that’s a good way to describe the art world: A room of white people.

The other day I went to my first symposium that my wife had organised on ‘artist led spaces.’ I have just become and artist in an artist led space so I felt as though this may be something I could resinate with.

I am the only person/artist of colour in the artist led space that I am involved in. I was also the only person of colour amongst the 20 plus people that were in that room, sitting opposite a panel of white people.

I sit and observe, I’m uncomfortable as I am the only person not having a conversation. Small electric shocks of anxiety keep pulsing through my veins as time goes on and still no one has even dared to make eye contact with me. The coffee encourages the anxiety and I am left thinking about how if someone was to talk to me perhaps we’d spark a real good conversation and exchange instragrams. Networking, the dream.

Melissa Harris-Perry is the author of a book called ‘Sister Citizen.’ She’s also a professor in political science. She’s the definition of a boss ass bitch. In the book, she references research called ‘the crooked room.’ They would take someone and put them in a dark room and when the lights are turned on, all the angles of the room are crooked and everything is tilted differently. sitting on a movable chair, the persons responsibility is to find the upright. It’s basically asking how dependent are we perceptually on the things that we can see when figuring out what is up and down.

Most people are field dependent and they would get themselves tilted in that chair as much as 45 degrees but perceive themselves as straight up and down because they are inline with the crooked images all around them (lol society).

Harris-Perry describes being a black woman in america as being in a constant crooked room. Society presents to us a series of crooked images that makes it hard to figure out what the true upright is.

Mate, this shit is like being a woman of colour full stop. But lets talk about the hashtag ART WORLD which I am now describing as a crooked room of white people which I have snuck into and am standing in the corner. The art on the walls is exploring the identity of the white male. To the field dependent people aka the majority of the (art) world, this room is upright, they can stand peacefully even though its only at 45 degrees, because their chair is inline and adjusted perfectly to allow them to view the ceramic pot that’s been made by the white boy and his mum. The work “explores his identity and their relationship” – stuff that those people can really resonate with. They stand alongside it comfortably while discussing last weeks PV, wine in hand. Meanwhile the person of colour is well aware that the room is at a 45 degree angle and the blood is rushing to their head and they finna pass out while wondering what the relevance of this shit is. Is it just to take up space so there’s no room for PoC? Prolly.

And so what happens when the room is upright to the minority? The wine starts to spill from the glasses of the white people. The work on the walls is too political, too girly, too angry, too black, too scary, too confronting. I spot a woman of colour across the room and I am safe. BUT everyone else has lost their shit so we go back to the comfortable 45 degrees. An example of the journey back to the 45 degrees is when Tate Liverpool had Glenn Ligon: Encounters & Collisions along side Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots. I sat in the gallery and watched people walk straight past Ligon’s carefully curated show exploring race, gender and sexuality in visceral, vibrant ways. They had come to see Pollock, and Ligon’s show was “too political” for them. Apparently some white gallery visitors actually complained about the use of the word Nigga in one of his paintings.

Last night I went to a PV in someones flat (hold tight it’s 2016). A caucasian exhibition in a caucasian home. I didn’t speak to anyone. Some guy legit came up to my wife and I and only introduced himself to her and started a conversation. Must be nice. I spent my time looking out the window, the world was still beautiful. The more I make art the more I fall in and out of love with everything. I’m just trying to work out what the upright is. It’s exhausting and it hurts. To women and to artists like myself, you are not weak for struggling. This stuff is real hard. And to Basquiat, I apologise, as we are still tired of seeing white walls, with white people, with white wine. We will get there one day.

This piece of work really resonated with me on the topic I am exploring. Rene Matic talks about the art world as the Crooked Room experiment, the angles of the room feel all wrong to the person perceiving the room and they must position themselves so that the room looks upright to them. However, she then alikens the room to the white male led art world:

“And so what happens when the room is upright to the minority? The wine starts to spill from the glasses of the white people. The work on the walls is too political, too girly, too angry, too black, too scary, too confronting.”

This particular excerpt really inspired me, because she is right – the world has become so set on the belief that white male artwork is all that is worth looking at, and if you cannot resonate with a piece of artwork that’s because it’s ‘too political, too girly, too angry, too black, too scary, too confronting.’

The work of the Guerrilla Girls was discounted for being too political, society felt that there was nothing wrong with the art world, and these women who used statistics and facts just wanted to stir up trouble. The very notion that women could be angry about their status in society was seen as ridiculous, and the idea that they were confronting the institutes who upheld the typical white male art world was unnecessary and harsh.

Matic’s essay holds many valid points that inspire me to create work that really pushes all of these boundaries, after all art is about expression – who are the art world to curate who is allowed to express, and what is ‘too anything’ to be shown to the general public?

So, what am I taking from this research?

Alongside the work of the Guerrilla Girls I am taking inspiration from this essay by Rene Matic. It inspires me not to shy away from creating work that is powerful, that is controversial and that is not curated by the regular art world.

Her essay embodies why women and people of colour are not given space in the art world; because the work they create cannot be resonated with by the majority. Art that expresses the feelings of people of colour and women is not seen as work that resonates with the majority, after all – these two qualities are ‘minorities’. By keeping this idea in mind I want to create work that may not immediately resonate with the majority, but will instead show them how it does resonate with the minority, and why it is important that this knowledge is spread.

Starting to experiment with Vacuum Forming

Today I went to the 3D lab and spoke to Kostas, the tutor who works with different 3D elements such as the laser cuter, vacuum former and types of sculpture. I spoke to him about my idea and we discussed the different ways I could go about creating a vacuum form of parts of the human body when I couldn’t put an actual person inside the machine.

  • We first discussed the idea of using the CNC/3D printers to create a model using a 3D scan of the body part, however Kostas said that the scanner is not always completely accurate so the resulting model would need to be tidied up and remade if it wasn’t an accurate enough representation.
  • We then discussed the idea of using the laser cutter to create model face, however he showed me a facial outline that had been created that way and there was not a great deal of detail which would lessen the overall effect of the project.
  • We finally discussed the idea of making a mould of my own hands using a skin safe impression material called Alginate. After creating a negative mould I could then create a positive mould from that, and use that in the vacuum forming machine to create the final piece.

We have decided to meet up during the morning next week to begin this process and experiment with the materials that we have at our disposal. I am excited to begin this process and find out what I can create and how I can manipulate the way it looks based on materials and processes.

Photography vs. Sculpture

After looking into the work of Vik Muniz and Jessica Mallock I have been looking at how photography and sculpture are similar and how they are different.

Sculpture has been around since thousands of years BC, and has developed over time as can be seen in my post exploring the history of sculpture. Although it was not captured from the beginning of sculpture itself, human emotion and introspection have been captured in sculpture form for thousands of years in a variety of ways.

The Neolithic era saw the beginning of detailed human anatomy as well as basic emotion, which was the starting point of introspection and emotions being sculpturally represented.

The Greek era was a huge turning point for sculpture as the Greeks managed to develop their abilities to create an impressively detailed form of bas relief in which human emotion, facial expressions and body language was able to be physically represented within the sculptures.

I find these two eras within sculpture particularly interesting as they both explore the depiction of humans and their emotions, something that I intent to bring to my work.

Photography, in contrast, was invented within the last 200 years. Although photography has produced some immensely detailed and engaging pieces of work, it has had far less time to develop in comparison to sculpture.

Photography has captured many forms of human emotion as the camera is able to capture whatever is placed in front of it, if the lighting and settings are appropriate, in a much quicker time than it would take to sculpt the same subject.

However, due to the increase in electronic media over the past 20 years there is a great deal of digital imagery and videos that, because of their abundance, seem to be unable to hold the audiences attention, even when the subject is of importance. I feel that this is partially due to the fact that the media is digital; it is unable to be touched, to be viewed any differently than from the perspective it was taken from.

In comparison to photography sculpture seems to be more engaging in terms of depicting human emotion. I feel that this is because a sculpture is a 3D piece of work in which textures are able to felt and the piece is able to be viewed from more than one fixed angle. For example, a sculpture of a person visibly displaying an emotion with their face is a piece that a viewer would be able to approach, to see from afar and from up close. The viewer is able to touch the sculpture, and to feel the texture of the medium it is created from, allowing them to question why this medium has been chosen and how it feels to touch links to what it is visibly displaying. The viewer is also able to feel the sculpting of the persons face, feeling their portrayed emotions beneath their fingertips, something that is not possible within photography.

For this project I feel that a form of 3D sculpture would be the most appropriate for displaying human emotion as it is able to portray minute detail, along with a more engaging outcome for the audience who are able to physically interact with the piece. I will be engaging with my 3D tutor to discuss which mediums within the 3D umbrella term would be best for me.



This week I feel that I am starting to get a clear picture of the work I want to produce and the concept behind it. I feel positive in terms of having a solid concept that I personally resonate with, a concept that I feel will be interesting to develop and research.

I feel that as I develop this idea further I will need to adjust my proposal.

The artists I have looked at so far have made me conscious of how important the medium I use for this project will be, so during the coming weeks I will be exploring different mediums to decide which is best for me in terms of concept, ease of access, expense and aesthetics.


Project Proposal & Pro forma

This is a working proposal that will be changed and updated if necessary throughout the project. 

Name: Chelsie Southern
Working title: Untitled

I intend to create a three dimensional piece physically representing the boundaries women and people of colour face in the art industry. I will be experimenting with mediums throughout the project and producing a piece with a narrative that relies on the medium it was created from. By looking at a range of artists I will establish how my body of work can conceptually represent a physical, mental and social boundary. My intention for the project is to produce a piece that uses multiple tools of narrating to highlight a range of sub-points within the overall narrative.

I feel that I produce better work when I focus on a theme that I resonate with, and I feel that in this module of experimentation it would be best for me to work with an idea that I already have a great deal of knowledge about so that I can use the tools at my disposal in the best possible way.

The idea that women and people of colour are at a disadvantage in the art world has been downtrodden in current times as it is the general idea that we’ve overcome such boundaries, when in reality we still have a long way to go. I feel that because this is an issue that affects me as woman I am able to explore the issue in more depth and in a more personal way which will reflect well in my experimentation of mediums and reasoning.

I also want to produce this body of work because the idea itself gives way to a range of experimentation, although the idea itself is specific the medium through which I communicate the idea does not have to be. This leaves me with a wide array of avenues to explore in order to properly convey the narrative, in terms of medium, what exactly I want to display and how.

Aims & Objectives
My body of work will be aimed at those who have any knowledge of the art world, or any interest in it. This work is an awareness campaign of sorts, as it is raising awareness for the boundary that still lies between women & people of colour and access to create and display their art without sexism or racism.

My approach to the work will be forward and unsympathetic to the audience. I feel that I almost want my audience to feel the sense of shock, the sense of being overwhelmed with truth that is undeniable. I want them to feel this way because society themselves are at fault for denying these categories of people a chance to create and a chance to show what they have created, and society must be faced with how this has affected the people involved.

For this module I will require the support of the 3D tutors and their knowledge of equipment, as I will no doubt be experimenting with multiple mediums and will need the help and opinions of these tutors to advise me on methods and safety.

At this point in my project I am not yet sure what equipment I will need specifically, however throughout my project I will update my proposal to include this. I am also not sure if this project will rely on any external locations outside of the university, this – along with my budget, will be updated as my project progresses.


Overall my project is about breaking down barriers between people who want to create, and the ability to do so. I am focussing on how boundaries are put up, why they are put up, by who, and for what? This particular issue of women and people of colour being shut out of the art industry seems political, and for that reason I can understand that not everyone will be able to resonate with the piece. To some people that the issue does not affect it is not as easy to see why it is important, however this project to me, is about doing my best to show everyone why it is important, and what breaking down this boundary could do for those on the other side of it.

Julien Palast

Upon researching how vacuum forming can be used within fashion I came across Palast’s collaboration with brand Melissa in which he created vacuum formed backdrops to photograph their products on. After looking further into Palast’s work I found a series called Skin Deep which is a collaboration with retoucher Thierry Peureux.


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The work itself allows the viewer to look at the human body in a raw form. By using the latex the identity of the person is hidden, the idea which in itself is a juxtaposition, as the person themselves cannot be identified yet their emotions are as raw and readable as it gets. The material is pulled tightly over the bodies, accentuating the natural curves of the human form, the effect this gives is very interesting as areas of the human form are visible but due to the lack of texture they look almost alien.

The technique of creating the imagery could be be an instant form of bas relief. Bas relief is a method of moulding, carving, or stamping in which the design stands out from the surface. Palast has not spoken much about the process used to create these pieces however other than bas relief there are a variety of possible processes used, such as vacuum forming and live modelling. Vacuum forming would require a cast of the models to be made and placed in a vacuum former that vacuums the material around the subject, creating the webbed effect within it. It is also possible that the pieces were created by using a sheet of flexible material such as latex and pulling it across live models whilst photographing the effect.

However these pieces have been created the concept behind them really interests me; the idea of anonymity versus readable and relatable emotion is something I feel could be a base concept for my final piece.

So what inspiration am I taking from this work? 

From here I would like to explore using the human form to convey emotion that represents a boundary. I am interested in Palast’s technique and although I do not want to replicate his work I will be experimenting to produce something similar, at least as an experimental stepping stone towards my final piece.

Looking further into ‘boundaries’

During my previous work I have always found that I produce the best art when I focus on issues that I resonate with. I have been looking at what kind of boundaries I personally face within the list that I made of different types of boundaries.

I realised that as an artist and a woman my presence in the art industry would be harder to establish than a male artist. It is commonly known that the art industry in dominated mainly by men and I feel that the best way to tackle this boundary is to make a piece of art that pushes it, both literally and conceptually.

Whilst I was researching the female presence in the art industry I came across an artist collective that I had known for their controversial feminist artwork – The Guerrilla Girls.

The Guerrilla Girls are a collective of anonymous women who tackle the lack of women and people of colour in the art world through the use of blunt and unignorable work, using facts and statistics and personally targeting organisations and institutions that are not inclusive of art created by women and POC.

The collective began as two friends, who have since recruited other members. The exact number of artists in the group is ever fluctuating, but was said to have reached around 30 artists in the 80’s. In 1989 they went to the Metropolitan Museum and counted the number of female artists and the number of nude females displayed within the gallery. The comparison was the 5% of the artists displayed in the gallery were women, whereas 85% of the nudity displayed in the work was women.

The women within the collective refused to be known for who they were, but instead chose to give themselves aliases of female artists before them, such as Frida Khalo and Käthe Kollwitz – the founding members, hoping this way the legacy of these female artists would be carried on.



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This particular piece is one that has been displayed in galleries and on billboards, as well as having widely circulated the internet. A side by side comparison shows the number of women who had one person exhibitions at New York City museums in the last year. The first piece, white with bold black text shows that only one museum had an exhibition solely by a female artist in 1985. The second piece shows the first piece with a black background and white text. The design is identical however the 1985 figures have been crossed out in a red pen-style font, and replaced with the figures from 2015 – 30 years later. This shows that in the 30 year gap all of the galleries have only have one more woman led solo exhibition each, a total of five in 30 years. This statistic was a shocking figure when all of the museums held multiple exhibitions per year. By creating a side by side comparison it presents the viewer with a neutral piece of information, leaving them to decide if what the information shows bothers them. It was also designed to call out these museums, and dared them to retaliate, to explain themselves.

I feel that this piece particularly resonated with the masses because it seems as if women’s rights in this USA and the UK particularly have advanced so much over the past 30 years, and that is well known across the world. However this piece argues with that fact, asking people if we’ve really advanced in terms of rights, as much as we think we have?


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The Guerrilla Girls presented their challenging findings in public places such as billboards, so that the facts could not be censored or more importantly, ignored. By asking provocative questions even passersby wouldn’t be able to help wondering the answer, and by getting through to the masses was how the Guerrilla Girls message was supposed to spend. Tag lining themselves as the ‘Conscience of the Art World’ their opinions and messages resonated with every artist who had ever struggled to get themselves out there because of their gender, skin colour, or any other characteristic – physical or otherwise.

I feel that this blunt and engaging way of displaying their findings really captivated people emotionally, and I feel that in my piece I would like to produce something that is engaging in a way that it’s message is unignorable.

What inspiration am I taking from this work?

Looking into the world of the Guerrilla Girls has really made me see how effective an unsympathetic campaign can be; by approaching the issue head on, and without at all sugarcoating any of their facts and figures, the work became very well known and later on as the internet became more popular, the work went viral.

By collecting facts and figures the work could not be argued with, and although not everyone agreed with them the issue gained traction and became a huge part of a movement to provide equal access to women within the art world. This type of bold and forward communication is something I’d like to carry on into my work.

Overall from this work, I am inspired not to be shy about the issue I want to communicate, and not to convey it in too subtler of a manner. I am also inspired by a medium that isn’t photography; the Guerrilla Girls have made some engaging work using collage and graphic design.


Group Critique

Tuesday, 22nd November – 1:30pm session

For this week’s group critique Anna opened by talking to us all about experimentation and how we should be thinking more about what different kind of mediums we can use and our general concepts than about our final pieces.

I agree with this as I feel there is more experimentation that I want to do before I decide on my final piece and how that will be created and presented.

When it was my turn to talk about my ideas I told the group that so far I was unsure about a specific concept, and rather I was looking at an umbrella concept: boundaries. We spoke about boundaries and my peers and my tutor had some good feedback in terms of what I could explore:

  • One of my peers suggested that I look into mental health and the boundaries one can face as someone who suffers with mental illness – however this is a topic I have developed projects around before and I feel that I would like to explore something new.
  • Another one of my peers suggested that I look into what kinds of mediums suggested boundaries in terms of narrative, such as flexible materials representing flexible, maybe breakable boundaries, whereas hard materials may represent unbreakable or very old boundaries. This is an interesting idea and I feel that it will be useful in my project.
  • Anna expressed that she was very interested in my concept and would be interested to see how I experiment with it. She gave me the names of a selection of artists that I will be looking into to inspire me and to use as contextual references in my project.

Vac forming used in fashion

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Julien Palast

This series of work is a collaboration between shoe company Melissa and artist Julien Palast. Palast, for this particular series, uses vac-form to create backdrops and scenes to advertise shoes. Each particular background is co-ordinated to the shoe it is advertising, to compliment and best showcase each shoe.

The decision to use plastic backgrounds made by vac-forming is likely to have come about due to the fact that Melissa use a plastic type material to create their shoes. Each background is devoid of colour detail; instead they are all made of a single colour, and the only detail is the shape and texture of the objects being vac formed. By creating singularly coloured backgrounds the shoes stand out, and the colour detail within them in more obvious.

Using colour theory Palast has created complimentary and contrasting colour pairings that are aesthetically pleasing.

 Iris van Herpen

During Autumn Winter Fashion Week 2014 Dutch designer Iris van Herpen used vacuum forming in an almost completely new and unique way. Models were suspended in plastic sheets that were heated and vacuumed around them. The vacuum removed almost all of the air from the sheets, besides the air the models needed to breath which was provided in a small tube. This effect caused the models to seem suspended in mid air. The plastic itself created a web-like texture around the models, where the plastic had been heated and set.

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iris-van-herpen-aw14-images_dezeen_6Vacuum forming the human body is a definitely a challenge as the process usually involves heat and vacuums, two things humans don’t do well with – especially at once. However this exploration into the way vacuum forming can be used is really interesting and shows that by experimenting with new ways to use an existing medium, new and beautiful things can be created.

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The clothes these vacuum formed models were made for was a line titled Biopiracy.

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The titled of the line and how it is presented is a commentary on whether or not we are the ‘sole proprietors’ of our bodies. By displaying the models in such a way it takes away their element of freedom to move and possibly even to be comfortable, and creates the idea that these models are not in charge of their bodies but are there to be looked at.

So, what am inspiration am I taking from these artists?

These two bodies of work both feature the human form used with vacuum forming. In Palast’s work I’m intrigued by the way the arms look as if they want to touch or grab the product but are unable to because of this plastic boundary. There is a similar element in van Herpen’s work as she places a boundary between the models and the outside world using the plastic. Both of these artists touch on the topic of boundaries which is something I’ve been exploring. I feel that I would like to explore using the human form in vacuum forming.