June 18, 2014
Photo Credit: Greg Case
Christina Zwart creates work that challenges people’s perceptions of reality. What often appears to be one thing from afar is, upon closer inspection, something else entirely. She takes items that have been constructed for specific purposes and transforms them into something that has nothing to do with their intended use. She works with materials as simple and easily-recognizable as flour and snow, or harder-to-find items like horseshoe crabs and plaster teeth models, giving solitary objects new life as she multiplies them to yield an overall piece. Some of her work is simply abstract, but much of it serves as social commentary, blurring the lines between organic and manufactured, humorous and disturbing. Zwart is a member of the Boston Sculptors Gallery, and lives and works in Wayland, MA.
Consenses Interview with Sally Taylor:
Your Name: Christina Zwart
Where you live: Wayland MA
Where you came from: Fairfax VA
Your Medium: Mixed Media Sculptor
The name of your work: “The Rescue”
Dimensions: (Height, length, width & weight) 3 Feet 2 foot cube 10lbs
Price: Wholesale $2,500
What made you want to participate in this project?
I was intrigued by the whole idea behind it – as well as the element of surprise. I loved not knowing where it was going.
The collaborative nature of it was really important to me. I once saw this TED talk by a National Geographic researcher who said that, in terms of longevity, isolation kills, and that more important than any factor is community.
Without going back to the art I sent you, what do you remember about it?
All I know is that I wanted to save the dog. I became totally fixated on the dog, saying to myself, “What about the dog?!” “No one is paying attention to the dog!”
What was your first reaction to the art (thoughts, emotions, memories, tastes, smells, etc.)?
One of the first things that came up was color. I knew that whatever I was going to do was going to be bright yellow and royal blue.
If you had to choose one word to sum up the art I sent, what would it be?
What emotion did it elicit?
Fear and panic. It really affected me because I had a couple of water-related incidents happen to me when I was a child and, as a result, I’ve always thought that the worst way to die would be to drown.
What was the art about in your mind? (Did it tell a story, paint a picture, etc.?)
Immediately what came to mind was DOG PARACHUTE RESCUE YELLOW BLUE.
When I started to watch the video, it featured a yellow plastic dog standing against a blue background and then, shortly, water came into the picture and started swirling around the dog. Then, two (what I first thought were) yellow plastic soldiers came into view and started circling the dog. It wasn’t until the water forced the soldiers to flip over that I realized they were paratroopers with empty cavities in their backs intended for parachutes. For a while, I watched them and was preoccupied by them getting tossed around by the water and coming in and out of the frame. Eventually, they settled onto their backs and I became less worried as I watched them circle in the ever-calming water. Then, I noticed that the water level had been slowly rising and putting more and more distance between me and the dog and I became increasingly worried about the dog. I wanted to plunge my hand into the water, grab the dog and pull it out. Thinking about rescuing the dog made me think of the paratroopers’ parachutes being the perfect vehicle to use to lift the dog to safety.
Take me through each step of your process – from getting the art to the creation of your work.
At first, I wanted to build a giant yellow and blue parachute with a dog dangling from it, but size was an issue. Then, I remembered that I had these little plastic, half- spheres left over from an installation I’d done. Unbelievably, I had them in the right colors. I added thread to them for the parachute cords, and scoured the Internet for worm weights (thank you, Minnesota!) to weigh them down. I strung 49 parachutes (48 blue static ones and one moveable yellow one) through vertical wire to keep them from tangling and, after looking for waaaaaaay too long for a dog the right size, decided to paint our Monopoly dog yellow. To fulfill the interactive requirement, I built, with the help of the Unstoppable David Lang, a crank on the side made out of a Milk Bone so visitors can turn it and make the dog rise.
What did you title your work and why?
“The Rescue,” because I wanted the viewer to actively be involved in doing something to save the dog. The crank enables visitors to control the situation instead of standing by, passively and helplessly.
How do you normally create? How was this experience different?
When someone presents me with a challenge, or when I get an idea that I want to execute, I look at a lot of images – mainly online (I need a Pintervention!). Then, I start sourcing supplies, looking everywhere and anywhere for the materials I need. This experience was different in that I wasn’t creating a piece in a vacuum. It came about as a result of work that had come before. The whole time I was working on it, I kept thinking about the video and who made it and why. Same with the original photo. I was very aware that my piece was part of something greater.
What techniques/tools did you use to help you express your interpretation?
The parachutes are half of those capsules with crappy little toys in them that you get at rest stops along the highway!
Are there certain choices you made which mean something specific to you that the observer might not know?
The piece is light-hearted and fun – the observer turns a dog biscuit crank to make a little dog rise into the air. What s/he doesn’t know is that the seed of the idea germinated from serious incidents I experienced as a child.
Extra credit: Did you enjoy this project? Is there anything more you’d like to say about your experience?
Yes, YEs, YES!!! I can’t wait to meet the other artists/links in our chain!