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Seduced by Sugar
Melissa Armstrong 07 ID has been creating intriguing sculpture by growing sugar crystals.
Melissa Armstrong 07 ID is the first to
admit that candy isn’t the easiest material in the world for making
art – especially when it involves actually growing the crystalline sugar most of
us know as rock candy. “Even though I’m working with an edible material, my
studio ends up resembling a mad scientist’s lab with pots of boiling sugar and
aquariums full of crystal-growing sugar solution,” she says.
initially began experimenting with candy during a 2010 residency at the Vermont
Studio Center in Johnson, VT. “All of my previous work had dealt with
permanence and impermanence, and would degrade or fall apart in various ways,”
she says. “So when I went to Vermont and wanted to play with something totally
new, I chose candy – initially hard candy – because I knew it would melt, dissolve
and be edible, allowing room for all types of degradation and interpretation.”
transient qualities, candy appeals to Armstrong because “there is an innate
playfulness and innocence in the material” that creates a tension between the
sugary substance itself and its application. But as she began making candy art,
she quickly realized that the idea of actually growing sugar crystals presented
even more intriguing creative potential.
“I got my
degree in ID and have always been really interested in the intersection of art
and science,” she explains. “I now recognize that they have much more in common
than I ever thought.” Through her studio “lab” experiments, she began
researching how super-saturated sugar solution can grow on hand-knit lace,
transforming it from a soft, malleable material “into literal rocks and
crystals through a very simple scientific process.”
Armstrong found the results to be
both “beautiful and baffling,” especially as the sexual overtones crystallized
in pieces like dura mater, a scanty “suit of armor” made to fit a 5'8" woman, which represents her first large-scale piece of rock
candy art. This piece and other results of her residency at Studio Center are on view in Science is Fiction: New Work by Melissa
Armstrong, a “mini-retrospective” of her crystalline work that continues through
April 8, 2011, at Gallery II in Johnson, VT.
“I love that
these feminine knit pieces” become “infused with entirely new associations of
the edible, the sweet and seductive, the feminine and the inaccessible,”
Armstrong says. Thanks to an NEA grant, she’s continuing her research into rock
candy art this spring during a May residency at the Virginia Center for the
Creative Arts in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
links:see more at MsArmsDesignfollow Melissa’s blog
, Industrial Design