MFA student Liz Black creates wearable living art through exhibit Creature Skin in CFA Project Space
When Jeff Shervan, a member of the art department support staff, first put the wheatgrass gloves on his hands, he had one thought: Fuzzy boxing gloves.
Creature Skin, the current exhibit in the Project Space, or CFA 155, explores the connection between plant and person through wearable art made of winter wheatgrass. Attire includes gloves and mesh scarves that lie on a table and can be picked up and worn by interested participants.
“Being unordinary, I wanted to transform the boundaries of the body,” said Liz Black, a master of fine arts student and creator of the exhibit.
The gloves felt wet because they supported the grass. Areas where the grass had laid down roots were more rigid, though the gloves as a whole remained light and mostly moveable.
Participants in the exhibit became part of the plant as they adopted the new appendages into their normal expressions and hand gestures. Some opted to do the opposite, enjoying their new flora-filled fingers and smelling the wheatgrass or even playing patty-cake with other plant-clad people.
“It makes you aware that there is a coexistence,” said Austin Laughlin, a senior sculpture major. “You’re supporting a vegetative organism.”
Some found coexisting to be difficult. The gloves weren’t easy to put on, as some people struggled to push through the roots that had grown into the glove.
Black had been planning this exhibit since November. The grass takes about two weeks to grow into the green blades that can be seen on the gloves.
Elisa Cremean, a fine art major, felt the interactive nature of the project helped build her interpretation of the Creature Skin showcase.
“[It’s easy to imagine] the roots going around your fingers and becoming part of the plant,” Cremean said.
After putting on their gloves or sprout-covered scarves, participants were encouraged to take a look around. Errant strands of mesh sprinkle the normally white walls but attendees’ attention is drawn to what’s floating in the middle – a black apparatus with pink sugar on the ends in a freeze frame drip.
The black mass in the room is a representation of Mycorrhiza, a fungus that works symbiotically with root systems to transport nutrients. Visitors touched the black mesh and looked through it at one another. The center of the mass was dense, but thinned out toward the edges.
After visitors try on the wheatgrass, the gloves are removed and returned to their table labeled “Be-grass.” By the time the first group was done, a new crop of people came inside, creating the space’s own sort of ecosystem for the wheatgrass.
For some, just looking around or touching the interactive art was enough.
Put on your own pair of plant gloves or be adventurous and try on a wheatgrass scarf at the Project Space, the only place one can smell of fresh grass and see of green plant life at an otherwise snowy North Campus.
David Dressner is an arts writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org