Monday, February 16, 2009

Proposal for Senior Project

"The Beauty Slime Mold Can Hold"

The mind is a maker of analogies, a suppliers of metaphors. It is a distributor of associations with a brain full of symbols waiting to be shipped out. Some objects like apples or roses have strong and traditional emotional associations with temptation and love. Other objects like shoes have weaker, less obvious associations. Associations arise from colors too. Green is healthy. Red is aggressive. Associations ultimately depend on context. An apple on a teacher's desk means something entirely different to most of us that the proverbial apple offered by Eve to Adam. Associations can arouse strong emotions.

This whole subject of associations and the emotions attached to them came to the forefront of my attentions when I found myself strongly attracted to images of slime mold I discovered on the internet, in my search for natural objects as the basis for organic jewelry. I wondered why and how I could find these pictures so artistically striking when they were photographs of slimy mold. So I did some quick research on slime mold in an attempt to understand it more fully.

Slime mold may have an unattractive name, but it is unfairly demonized by it's name. These fungi-like amoeba organisms can appear gelatinous in some stages of their growth, hence their name. But they are not fungi. They are really oddballs or misfits in the biological hierarchy. They are close to being both plant and animal, but are neither. Slime mold has been the inspiration for many "B' grade monster movies. But ironically, slime mold for the most part, is a beneficial organism that decays dead plant material, returning nutrients to the soil.

So why does slime mold inspire me to formally reproduce its various forms as works of art? The answer is simple - it is hard not to be shocked by its stunning beauty of color, form and texture in all of its life cycle stages. It remains an unexplained contradiction to me. The images of decay and horror that slime mold is traditionally associated with versus the reality of slime mold actively enriching the earth while growing in gorgeous colors, textures and forms. Conceptually, my organic jewelry comes from a desire to embrace the impermanence of the natural world around me. Rather than mourning the transience of life, this jewelry will celebrate it, transforming decay into beauty, slime into the sublime. Practically, these slime mold designs are aesthetically pleasing. They alternately can resemble coral, leaves, branches, veins, pearls - a myriad of organic forms. It is almost as if the design is alive, showing growth and movement in its branching form.

As an artist, I realize that the association I make with an object may not be made my others. By lifting out a small segment of one piece of a specific slime mold and reproducing it in metal, I can refocus the viewpoint and hence the association. Not showing the whole subject shifts from the information and emotion associated with the whole, to something more abstract. Parts can be graphic. When designs are not literal, they invite many interpretations. By focusing on a part of the slime mold design and lifting it out of its usual decaying context, I hope to invite the viewer to appreciate the beauty of things previously overlooked, to revive a part of our world previously dead to our senses.

I propose to make a few pairs of earrings and a few necklaces, maybe a bracelet and a ring - all with the purpose of bringing natural forms to the human body for display, adornment and enjoyment.

Using the format of jewelry, I hope to reveal some unexpected and hidden beauty, buried in the contradictions of nature and design.

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