Thursday, March 1, 2012

Wooden Sculptures

Visited the Portland Art Museum recently, and was impressed by the carved wooden figurines by John Frame. Originally designed as stop-motion figurines for a film, they are astoundingly intricate objects independently of the film project.
The magic, for me, is in the details. The figures are fairly small--maybe a foot high?--but they have astonishingly detailed joints carved in the wooden hands. The facial expressions carved into the wood are also astonishing in their subtlety and power. I gawked, I really did.

But these beautiful and distinctly surreal figures are even more amazing when you catch a glimpse of how they are animated for Frame's film. Tiny glass eyeballs, like you would see in dolls or taxidermy projects, are already pretty fascinating when they are sewed into this character's overcoat. (I was torn when I saw this--I simultaneously really want to make myself a coat covered with glass eyes, and really don't want to, because it's just too creepy!)
But, in the film, not only do the long thin wooden dowels sticking out of this character's head give its own eyeballs the power to move...but the eyes sewn into the cloth of its coat will nonchalantly blink throughout the scene. Yes. It is the most beautiful, and also the most deeply unnerving, thing I've seen in a long time.
There's a snippet of the blinking eyeball coat here. All I can say is, wow. (And, isn't it interesting that both of my recent visits to PAM have left me obsessed with the sewing technique wherein you slash open the outer layer of a jacket so the lining can show through?)

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