Realism in Stone
My passion for sculpting involves creating a virtual record of contemporary culture, a technique I coined more than 20 years ago, by capturing everyday objects in carved stone.
From the onset, I am uncertain as to which food, article of clothing, and particular brand I want to replicate. This historical evidence for future generations is what drives me towards duplication. Their significance is much deeper than what they represent in the supermarket, or in my bedroom closet.
I ask myself, will a bottle of Heinz ketchup exist in 3012 AD?
Will we still be drinking soda from can?
Will people still be wearing jeans or cowboy hats?
In the nature of Vanita’s paintings, I strive to form a copy of the original object, by unearthing a stone whose color is as identical as can be. When it is impossible to find, I purchase a tan stone and stain it until it reaches the desired color. The stone must be closest in texture to the object, as well. For example, a paper bag of Milano cookies is best depicted in white marble, being that the color is identical and the texture is as smooth as the wrapper I am copying.
When I designed a Diesel denim jacket, I used limestone because its texture is closest to the feel and because there was no identical blue stone to match those jeans, I used custom made stains to color the stone in order to achieve ultimate authenticity.
One of my favorite challenges was creating a plastic wrapped container of Oreos. I used white marble, polished it until it was as shiny as the original wrapper, and then chose different shades of blue and red to paint the logos, “Nabisco” and “Oreos,” to complete the piece.
In order to create the most exact composition of the product, this process can consume at least a year to perfect. My Diesel jacket, for example, required hours of chiseling, sanding, refining, staining, and mounting until its creases and grooves appeared to be moving on the hanger I designed. I know my work is done when I hang the real Diesel jacket on an aluminum wire I suspend from the ceiling and place my replica before it. If I turn around and reach for the wrong jacket when it’s time to leave my studio, I know I’m done.
The energy put into details, such as, carving the teeth of the zipper but using a real metal pull, to zip up the pants is what confuses its viewers. Watching them squint as they try to decipher whether the zipper head is authentic, or merely a result of simple handiwork involving a glue gun is exhilarating. Once they conclude the zipper pull is authentic, they leave wondering if the teeth were carved. That is when I know I have achieved my goal.
If they are sure the teeth are carved into the stone, they are dumbfounded because that would mean even the miniscule zipper pull with its intricacies may be a replica, as well. To further confuse the viewers I also hung a paper Diesel tag from a belt loop, leaving them perplexed while I feel ecstatic.
One night my middle-aged cousin visited my home unexpectedly. I served him coffee and went to my studio. The next day he called and was furious.
“What are you doing leaving your Oreos on the table? I almost broke my tooth!” he yelled.
“I told you I never serve food in my living room,” I retorted laughingly.
Ever since, he taps every piece of food he wants to eat in my house before daring to bring it to his lips. Laughs like that are worth the toil and tears I undergo while I try to perfect my work.
My abstract pieces depict the waves of thoughts moving through my mind at various moments. Sometimes, I sit in front of the stone, shut my eyes and meditate before starting the art process. I think of the form I need to create to transfer feelings of tranquility onto these works. When I feel angry, I attack the stone with the same mass array of sharp and powerful tools such as 7-inch diamond blades and high-powered air hammers, to chisel away and eliminate my stress, anxiety, and frustration. These emotions vanish as they are infused into the rock.
Its true beauty of these sculpture lays not merely in its physical presence, but in its soul. My point is to bring a dead rock to life. What better way than to give it a physical shape and breathe my emotions into its grooves?
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