Over the past two decades, the sculptor Sarah Sitkin has used materials such as silicone and latex to play with hyperrealistic configurations of the human form. Some focus on absolute replication, while others play with abstract ideas and science fiction fantasy. Sitkin's projects include commissions like a face mask by Billie Eilish split in two for the cover of Garage Magazine a case for headphones and somber sculptures for Syfy & # 39; s Channel Zero: No -End House .
The shocking spectacle of Sitkin and his most recent work, Bodysuits, is now on tour at Superchief Gallery locations. The show began in Los Angeles last year and can now be seen in New York before going to Miami. Sitkin got on the phone with The Verge to talk about his molding process, the search for body models and the rejection of the most common beauty standards.
Content Warning: This story contains pictures of nude human body models.
This interview has been slightly edited for clarity and brevity.
In this program, you started. work with the whole body instead of stacked pieces as in some of his previous works . It is very related, but it had a completely different feeling. Can you tell me about that thought process?
Previously, I would approach my artwork more intuitively. He would assemble things until the concept came up and then refine it. Whereas Body was a whole concept for the program: what I wanted to do and how I wanted it to look and feel that it was already designed from the beginning. The plane was there. I knew exactly what size molds to make, what kind of molds I had to make and how much time I had to make them and the materials. It was a new way of creating for me, and it took a lot of discipline.
Body I felt like the culmination of most of my life as an artist.
The show looks amazing. The first thing I felt when I entered this space is that in our culture, you often do not see bodies in a non-sexual context. And that was really incredible.
It's not so shocking! We have all had bodies for millennia, but there is a great point of controversy. So, you feel uncomfortable when you walk into a room and see a lot of naked bodies. But it is the most common thing that we all share and with which we can all relate, but we all feel uncomfortable. For me, the amount of controversy that a simple and unclothed body still has in 2019 is crazy.
Can you explain the planning process of creating the molds and finding their models?
I knew I wanted to make these pieces that were the shell of people. And after going through this in my mind, and knowing that there would be so many different body shapes, and to make it a portable garment, certain design choices had to be made. In a perfect world, I would have loved that the suits were full to the feet and the whole head too. But, obviously, those would not be clothing, so I had to refine them to the most necessary parts of the body, which would be the torso.
I made a prototype suit in October 2017. As well as, like, a proof of concept. I had a lot of friends who came, they tried it on and they told me about their experience. We started the process of making an open call for those who wanted to participate in the program. And we got a lot of initial feedback from people who wanted to be part of the project Bodysuits but we had to reduce it to people who were healthy enough to do the mold process, which is really demanding. in your body. Because you have to keep perfectly still in standing position for about an hour. You must shave your entire body, you can not have any type of allergy to latex or silicone materials. He can not have respiratory problems, he can not be a smoker. From there, we had a core group, I think, of eight people who were ready for the challenge.
We take a mold of the person in the studio, there is a team of three people in a very choreographed and very fast action in which we cover the whole body of the person with silicone, and then we cover that silicone with plaster, and then Eventually we separated it and cut it from the piece. And from there, we put the mold back together. And we make many, many coats flush with thin layers of silicone until we fill up again.
The experience of the visitor is very intimate, not only seeing the work, but the experience of trying these suits. I imagine that it is a very intimate process to create them.
It is an extremely intimate experience. If you imagine being completely naked and completely shaved in front of a team of three essentially strangers who cover your body with a strange consistency of toothpaste, you really know someone. You're already forced into an intimate place, so you really start talking. Immediately you find yourself in a different and more vulnerable place. During the molding process, I know someone and there are certain things they tell me about their life, or certain feelings they have about their bodies or insecurities, or to see how they struggle with how their body has changed over time, or what they I would like it to be his ideal body. I take note of all those things. And those come into play in the final stages of the mold.
Once I have the mold and a skin mold, I can add heavy pieces to the suit, such as steel ball bearings or weights or sand. I can mix the very heavy silicone and make it very soft. I can customize the silicone so that it feels, weighs and behaves as I want. And so, I made decisions about the design of each unique outfit about how I wanted the outfit to feel, based on what I learned about them when we are in the molding process.
Is this kind of model something you want to do again? Or do you feel that you have exhausted this form of molding?
The molding process is an ancient practice, and I will never stop doing it. I grew up doing it in my room, it feels almost like it was part of me and of my existence. I always find myself thinking about things in terms of molds and how they are made. I am always inspecting objects to see where the mold seams are and how they are made. Regarding the project [19459003Bodysuits I would have loved to have a great variety of body types: a suit for every archetype of the human body that exists on Earth. But I think that at some point I would like to go ahead and see the next step in the evolution of my artistic practice.
One of the suits available to prove it was the body of a woman who, I was told, was specifically requested to be made because she was the "average" American woman.
The show at Superchief Gallery, Los Angeles was really well received and led the Museum of Health and Medical Sciences (MoHS) to take my exhibit to its museum.
As part of the terms of the exhibition, they would order two new suits and choose exactly which body. We did a very intense casting where we reached 300 aspirants. MoHS really wanted the exact American average of the most recent census, which was in 2015. Fortunately, being in Los Angeles, there is a casting type for actors in which part of your resume includes all your measurements. So it was very easy for us to find someone who had the exact measurements in all aspects of the average American woman, and she was extremely excited to be part of the project.
About the male suit, can you talk a little? Little about why that individual was chosen?
Yes, these were chosen by the Health Museum. They ordered the suits, they had to make the decision about who was chosen. Much of the central theme of the museum at that time was about colon health. And so, when we were in the casting, we really wanted the oldest person who could do the casting process safely, because it is a very demanding process. We found this man and we did not even discover his beautiful scar until we were making the mold and he was naked. He is a colon cancer survivor.
One of my favorites is the pregnant woman. It's so wonderful to see that included.
I was so excited when this woman wanted to do it. I was so scared. I was 38 weeks pregnant. And I was like, nothing can go wrong in this case. I mean, we need an extra crew here. We did this a little differently. Actually we had her sitting. And that's why his suit is so high. I was too nervous to have her standing. She wanted, but she could not, she was too scared.
She was a soldier, she never had a problem. She had said that pregnancy was so difficult for her body and that she had learned to tolerate so much pain and discomfort that nothing could stun her.
I also loved some of the details that you put inside the costumes that were also really beautiful. It was like a small extra prize. If you turn the suit around, there are these little stories inside and you can imagine what they represent.
I think that was definitely one of my favorite parts of doing the interiors, because there is a lot of discipline in the work of silicone. Chemistry and time. But with the interiors, I can approach this freer form and sew things by hand. And if I do not like it, I could cut it and it's not a big deal. So doing the interiors was fun for me.
Some fashion entities such as the designer duo Fecal Matter pick up your work. I'd love to hear what you think about that.
Yes, I am a little disconcerted and I am delighted that it is resonating with people. In fact, I often work as a manufacturer doing commission work for other artists, executing their ideas. I really loved working with Fecal Matter. We had many conversations about how fucked up the world of fashion is and how everyone relates to the human body. And, then, I think that everyone wants to eliminate almost their humanity from their body.
The body is a point of contention, stress, anxiety and hatred for almost everyone.
I also loved the fashion photo, where is this very quiet and beautiful scene, and the model has a very special image. bunch of limbs.
That was a Gucci campaign. Yes, that was rad. I have been working with this fabulous photographer named Petra Collins and we have been doing many things together recently. And I love what comes to mind. That was Petra's idea. We wanted to do something that was a tribute to a vintage horror movie, something like a kind of behind the scenes kind. So I brought the most obvious accessories I had in my store. I love working with Petra, she is fabulous.
I've read about your conscious avoidance / rejection of traditional beauty standards, and the ways in which your work is a reaction to that, that really resonated with me.
I was raised in Los Angeles, which is an epicenter for the entertainment industry. There are many cultural attitudes and stigmas about bodies. It was an interesting time and place to be a young person who knew herself because there were two types of worlds: the most visible type of world in the entertainment industry, and then the other side, punk, skate, movement of counterculture that was. Following, with what I identified much more. It definitely shaped me a lot as an artist. Definitely, I developed a resentment towards the pressures that the world and culture place on having these idealized bodies.
I grew up working in an art store when I saw the same celebrities that came on the screen and in the movies. . Therefore, seeing these people in real life, compared to the airbrush and Photoshop version of the billboards, was a great division. Like, something of fantasy arose and I knew that everything was just a farce. Knowing that it definitely remains a big part of my job, my previous job, my current job. The project Body definitely wants to lift the illusion. It is a rare intersection to be in an artistic practice that consists of making illusion, but also wanting to use it to illustrate the illusion.
Body is in view at Superchief Gallery NY until May 5th. Please contact the gallery [email protected] to make an appointment to try on a suit.
Photograph by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge