By Lily “Billy” Olson
Please note that the artist uses he/him and they/them pronouns.
This sculpture was made in response to a prompt about self presentation and how we are perceived. By the world around us. As an individual on the autism spectrum, I encounter certain unique strains on my presentation of myself to the world. These strains are inarguably intertwined with my transgender identity. Having been socialized in young age as a girl and being engulfed in the arbitrary rulebook of womanhood has made my experience with masking my autistic traits a minefield in some respects. Many of my mannerisms I employ in public settings when I face interactions with strangers in professional settings are of a traditionally feminine manner which has caused me great discomfort and upset. This collage was a therapeutic way of processing and expressing my frustrations with this crossroads of my life.
The collage was constructed of magazine clippings from the 60’s-70’s. I used modge podge on the front of the images and affixed them to the interior of the beaker. Once the collage itself was finished, I began experimenting (pun mildly intended) with what form I would like the experiment in the beaker to take. I wanted to simulate the trial and error of communication on the spectrum without falling into stereotypes that depict all autistic individuals as savants and brilliant mathematicians because lord knows maths and sciences have never been my strong suits. In complete transparency my visual inspiration for this project was the 1985 cult-classic horror film Re-Animator directed by Stuart Gordon which remains a fixated interest of mine. While the main character, Herbert West, falls into many stereotypes attributed to autistic men I feel a deep understanding of his character’s desperation to connect to the people in his life he cares for. I apologize for the diversion but again my autism has not made me a mathematician but it has made me uncontrollably fixated on 1980’s splatter horror.
In an effort to translate the fluid motion I wanted to convey with the sculpture I considered using tufted felt and stop motion animation to create a short film performance. I began different variations of baking soda volcanos when the felt was not providing the results I was looking for. This took me on a detour of a couple weeks of material trial and error and story boarding which I eventually abandoned because it simply was not looking the way I wanted it to.
In the end, the most effective material I used was my old friend, hot glue. I’ve previously used hot glue to make sculptures and while it is incredibly time consuming to work with it is incredibly effective when your goal is goopy! I used hot glue to create the mass of the goo and mixed modge podge with green food dye in layers to achieve the color I wanted. Below is the final installation of the piece in Heimbold.