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Rat Queen

by Jenny Hager
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  • Project description

    I am creating all 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac as parade animals. So far I have built a horse, a rat and an ox. All three animals have a steel armature (skeleton) constructed with pencil rod. Each animal is going to have a different surface texture, appropriate to the specific animal and the story I want to tell through each animal. Creating the steel armature is like making a line drawing in physical space. I create the profile and straight on views on cardboard using them as a template/jig to create the most basic lines of the form. The other lines I create by eye and using measurements from a small model. Each line is magneted to the piece until I like the placement. Then each line gets welded in place. After that, a hardware cloth or poultry netting is applied to make a smaller matrix. Then the final texture is added. The shinges were strung onto wire and then tied on to the horse. The rat fur was woven into hardware cloth. The rat has over 3 miles of rubber tubing stitched on to the armature. It took me about 250 hours to do the work. My neighbors/family members all pitched in as well. It was extremely time intensive to put on the rat\'s fur (as well as the shingles for the horse). The rat\'s story is taken from a recurring dream where rats are hanging by their teeth from the bottom of my nightgown. I didn\'t want to translate the dream literally, but decided to use elements from the dream. I also incorporated some elements from my other work, particularly the Rust and Satin series, using some cast iron elements and fabric, but also meshing the masculine and feminine, turning her into a \"rat queen\" instead of a \"rat king.\" I wanted to take the image of the rat, which I find to be grotesque and disturbing (also symbolizing greed and power), give her feminine qualities and make her somewhat beautiful as well. The nightgown in the dream is represented by the fabric. The braid for the tail references the Rust and Satin series again, speaking to human hair, its feminine qualities and the idea of personal adornment. The horse piece (collaboration with printmaker Emily Arthur) has small wood veneer shingles with a screen-printed texture of human hair overlayed. Springing from the horse\'s back are flags, icons from both Emily and myself. I am thinking of the ox as an autobiographical piece in the sense of me being a sculptor. Being a sculptor is physically demanding and so the ox is a nice metaphor in that way, it being known as a beast of burden, so to speak. The \"bottari\" elements (or little packages) that will be \"springing\" from the ox\'s back will represent the physical load but they\'ll also be celebratory, little packages wrapped in silk/satin fabrics and twine. So, the ox will connote both the physical burden but also the beauty of being a maker.