‘Sculptography’

I recently did a collaboration with sculptor and bodycaster Jamie McCartney, for my exhibition Neurotica at Impure Art Gallery. The idea was to create a cast of me in a pose similar to one of my nude shots and then to shoot a photograph in the same pose, and project it onto the cast in the gallery, as an installation piece. The whole thing was an experiment and we had no idea how it would turn out.

I have never had my body cast before, so that alone was an interesting experience. Only the previous month I had been naked (or at least topless) for another artist, Rossina Bossio. This time it was a little less dignified, I wore a shower cap and had Nivea smeared on my hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes, to have Jamie and his assistant Sophie pour a bucket of goo over my shivering torso which dripped over my face and become heavier and heavier as it set over my leaning body, convincing me that I’d have a subluxation before the 15 mins were out. It was strangely enjoyable though and put me out of my depressive mood that I was in earlier that day (maybe the chocolate that they fed me helped).I did get them to take pictures of the whole process, but I haven’t got hold of them yet, I’ll try to get them and post them here later…

We cast my hand separately, and attached it later.

I took the cast home to copy its pose and photograph myself. It wasn’t until I came into the gallery to hook my laptop up to the projector and see the image ‘live’ on the hanging cast that I could really start tweaking it to match its shape. It was a bit of a task, because as you can imagine, the surface of the cast (my body) needed a very different image from an onscreen ‘flat’ version. Hooray for the Warping transform tool… which I used individually on parts of my body after first cutting it up into several different layers so they could move independently of the others. The main mission was to get my nipples in the right place, then the outline of my body, then the face. Lots of stretching ensued, with some clone tool touch-ups later. I found that the projector didn’t pick up on certain parts in detail so I was free to just smudge my skin around so that my hand, for example, just needed a splash of vague skin colour to look right, rather than painstakingly manipulating each finger. I was also looking rather green so I changed the colour balance at the end too.

The result – startling! Very lifelife, ‘like a painting had jumped off the wall’, someone commented – a little ‘creepy’ even (in my own words), and certainly inspiring for me, in terms of working for the first time with something 3D.


The main problem seemed to be making the image stay as put, in a suitable display context for the exhibition itself. I switched on Full Screen Display mode on Photoshop, so the picture was on a black screen and painted black around the outline of my body, so the whole thing was ‘on black’. I got rid of all the toolboxes surrounding the image, and made sure my computer was set not to go to sleep. But annoyingly, the screen would still go black after about 20 minutes, and I’d need to twiddle the trackpad to wake it up again. The resolution and Hertz settings changed a couple of times, making the thing go tits up (literally), but I finally got it to stay the way it should look. I’ve had to take my laptop away now, so we’ll try and use another laptop or a DVD player instead.


Above: With Jamie on the launch night


Above: Taken by Martin Christie

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Posted in Collaborations & commissions on August 5th, 2009 | 10 Comments |

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Comments for “‘Sculptography’”

    1. Lash in Virginia
      8:05 pm on August 5th, 2009

      What an extraordinary experiment. Congratulations!

    2. jestem
      5:40 am on August 6th, 2009

      That’s amazing, Nat. What a wonderful exercise and a fantastic artist technique.

    3. Heather
      5:50 pm on August 6th, 2009

      What an exciting project. I think I saw a programme that featured some of his casts of vaginas – it was quite fascinating! (hope you don’t mind me saying the ‘V’ word on your blog!).

    4. Arty Fucking Smokes
      11:04 pm on August 6th, 2009

      A really interesting experiment. I wish I’d seen it in situ as I’m sure the photos above (good as they are) don’t do the creepiness justice. It must be amazing to have a cast of your torso. I’m not really a fan of sculpture (or video projections for that matter) but the tangibility must make it seem quite spectacular.

    5. jestem
      11:14 pm on August 6th, 2009

      The more I envision this, the more interesting the technique becomes. I agree with AFS. Not only the cast must be amazing, but to see the 3D photograph of yourself must be even more amazing.

      Is there a chance we will get to be more high-res photographs of the installation? I’d really love to see a more accurate representation. Or I could buy a plane ticket and fly over there, I suppose. :)

    6. Miss Aniela
      8:24 am on August 7th, 2009

      I do really want to go back and take some more pics. Of course, I could have posted the ones above a bit bigger. I just felt a bit wary of doing that, because it’s so lifelike! heh.

    7. Miss Aniela
      8:25 am on August 7th, 2009

      @ heather – no prob :)

    8. darkdaze
      10:51 pm on August 31st, 2009

      this is a concept i am really into- having worked a lot with projections and actual bodies-(on both buildings and people) and I am kinda excited by this new angle. Hope it spurs on a new burst of work. There is something haunting- not the best words to describe them, but definitely arresting about the images above. The qualities remind me a little of Ron Mueck, tho that may just be the tones etc in the image. Be very intrigued to see where this idea goes. Nice one.

    9. Bradford
      2:29 am on September 4th, 2009

      All I can say is WoW! Thanks for the reminder or update on Facebook (I would have never have seen this if I didn’t see the link on Facebook). This is quite an experiment and very interesting! I loved your writing on how you pulled this off on your blog!

    10. matthew davis
      2:51 am on October 4th, 2011

      Impressive work. You may have thought of this but why not use a slide projector for projecting the image onto the casting. One could be mounted from the ceiling or a pedestal. Great work. Look forward to seeing more.

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