Creature Feature: Elefantito

Elefantito (Mexican Horseradish Root), 2016
15″ x 12″ x 15″
Stainless Steel

F 01 copy

In my last solo exhibition at Skoto Gallery in 2014, I made a large drawing of a ‘compressed’ elephant utilizing its three main elements: the trunk, feet and giant floppy ears. I had the idea to translate the drawings into 3D sculptures, but I was not sure how. I work from intuition and inspiration; I don’t calculate or formulate.

After the show, I was at the grocery store and next to the garlic I saw a Mexican Horseradish Root and thought to myself, “Holy guacamole, this is my Elefantito!”

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I ditched the groceries and headed back to the studio to make the mold. For the mold I use Silicone Plastique®, a food grade silicone putty. It comes in a tub of white and blue that I activate by mixing equal parts.
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As for the carrot in the photo, it occurred to me that it is similar in shape and texture to the horseradish root. However, upon closer inspection, I realized that the texture was not profound enough to translate into the mold and ultimately into the wax. I often have thoughts or ideas (in this case an actual carrot) that are not as much ‘creative dead-ends’ as they are confirmations that my initial instinct is correct.

While I was waiting for my mold to dry I was thinking about how to make my idea 3D and tangible. I want to tell you that I just whipped it out, but the truth is I stared, stopped and started. I picked up the paper, made a cut and then sat back down to think some more. This went on for a month and then one day it clicked and within minutes I had my model.  I used paper scraps and staples as glue was too slow for my speed of thought.

paper model

With my paper model I could take it back to the foundry and work with my team there to bring the piece to fruition. The natural shape of the root alluded to the trunk, and the skin could be pulled out to make the ears. The feet also take the shape of the root with some added root endings to make the elephant toenails.

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Next step is the ‘lost wax’ as that is what starts the whole casting process. I use my blue silicone mold to hold the liquid wax until it dries. This is how I translate the horseradish texture, give it shape and life and wait…woah, what is this, that lumpy umphy goofy silly walk that Elefantito has, THAT was gift from the art  gods. I will take it!

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It can sound easy, but truth be told, all along the way I am worried if this will work, can it work? The wax is fragile and unforgiving, my nose sweats in nervous anticipation. But then somehow it works, I see what it will be, my ears, nose and feet but then I get greedy, I want more, I want the ‘unexpected’?!

Next comes the casting in stainless steel. The backside of Elefantito’s parts have a highly polished finish, which is a surprise. Why would I take the time to make the backside so pristine? I like that feeling of going somewhere that you would not choose/did not even know existed but now that you are there, you will never leave.

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