Into The Light
This is a portrait of artist Zaria Forman. The title of this piece is: ‘Into The Light’
In all fairness, there isn’t anything special about this portrait. It’s of a woman -which is a generic choice to me- and is done on a large scale. Nothing about this sounds special. However, I’d argue that the piece in its entirety is wholly unique, and one of a kind.
This portrait is made up of Zaria’s used and pastel stained latex gloves. Everything you see, is a latex glove. She documents human fueled climate change by drawing hyper-realistic large scale landscapes, through pastel on paper. And she wears the latex gloves to protect her hands from toxic chemicals in the pastels. The portrait, is of her, using her own exhausted gloves, that she has used to make her own drawings!
(Pardon me if I get a bit excited about this piece. I’m my biggest fan.)
Not only are the gloves used, but the entire piece (minus wood riser trim, adhesive, and screws) is reclaimed and reused. From the top; the latex gloves have been adhered to a piece of used plastic banner material using clear silicone. The plastic banner material has been professionally stretched, and wrapped over a custom reclaimed wooden frame. With the entire piece coming in at 48 x 70.25 x 1.75”.
From idea to finish, this project spanned over 3 years. With the production time of 1 year and 5 months (with over 500 invested hours), it’s the most intense and challenging piece I’ve ever had the opportunity of working on.
Not only is this portrait of Zaria by way of her own gloves, but it is also fully inspired by her work. And if you notice closely, her work lives inside her portrait through the colors, style, and methods used to create this piece. Which all were inspired from her own drawings.
Let’s Go backwards…
in Late 2014 I stumbled upon Zaria while surfing the web. Her work blew me away. After reading up on her, I noticed she wore rubber gloves while creating her pieces. A small light bulb flickered on and off in my mind. I reached out to her and inquired why she wore the gloves, and what she did with them once they were exhausted. She said that she wore them to protect her hands from the cancer causing agents in the pastels, and then tossed them once she was done with them. As soon as I read this, the light bulb turned on, and I had my idea:
A portrait of Zaria, using the gloves she uses in her own work after she is done with them (diverting them from the landfill), with the inspiration of her work, filtered through my mind. The pitch was sent out in early 2015. But not after a bit of hesitation on my part as I didn’t think she’d go for it. The response came very quickly to my surprise, and her answer was an overwhelming yes. (YES!)
Being that she needed to collect her gloves for me, and that the predicted size was to be 4x6 foot, the piece wasn’t going to start for some time. Rough details were presented, and the glove saving began soon after.
All in all it took her about a year and a half to save enough of her used and stained gloves (about 88 to begin with) for me start. And that would take the timeline to summer of 2016 when I would travel to her studio in Brooklyn, NY, to shoot her for this piece. And to collect her gloves.
Once I got the film developed, and picked the shot I was to use, I started by building the frame in beginning of September 2016. Most of the wood was reclaimed, and procured from a local reuse center. With the remaining pieces coming from my own discarded supply. From there; the surface, used plastic banner material, was cut and stretched over the frame just as if it was canvas. Only exceedingly more difficult. This material was salvaged from a local sign shop, diverting this plastic material from the landfill, and into a piece of art. The stretching of the plastic took about 8 hours. It could have been done quicker, but I took it slowly as I’d never stretched a piece of plastic this size before. It was a stretch. (Ha ha ha!)
Once the surface was stretched and wrapped, it was cleaned and prepped with a coating of white Gesso to ensure an even white starting surface. As the Latex gloves have varying degrees of transparency, I couldn’t have any markings on the starting surface, or else it would show through the gloves.
With the readied surface, it was now time to start the actual piece! The gloves had to be sorted by color in order to see what I had to work with, and what could be used where. This must be done with most of the materials I work with, as they are in limited quantity. Such as the gloves. Therefore I had to roughly plan out the entire piece with the colors of the gloves provided. (Check out my Instagram, as I should have a picture of these laid out on my floor) In all honesty, I probably spent about a week sorting through the colors, starring at the photo reference, and to my surface, and back again. Figuring out what I had, and what colors could go where. Once that was planned in my mind, I began to cut and paste!
To adhere the latex to the gesso coated plastic surface, I needed a clear adhesive that was flexible, wouldn’t yellow, and could adhere two non-porous surfaces together. My choice was clear silicone. Silicone is not an environmentally friendly product. However, all of the silicone tubes I used were saved, along with all of the scrap silicone, for future art projects and ideas. Only a micro sum of it -floor dirt- was swept up and put in my trash. (Which by the way; I’m on path to produce 1 bag of trash in 3 years!)
In addition to the surface needing to be cleaned and without marks -as the latex gloves are transparent- I needed a way to produce the piece without actually drawing anything on the surface. As all of the markings would show through the latex. What I ended up doing was creating a full size, black and white print of the piece, to lay on top of the surface. This would allow me to create it with accuracy, and without any underlying marks. As I moved along the piece, sections of the paper were cut off. As with the scrap silicone, these scrap pieces of paper were not tossed away. They were saved for a future piece.
You might ask why I didn’t recycle the paper…? The paper had both tape, and silicone residue on it, thus it wouldn’t be possible to recycle. It now resides in my supplies, awaiting for a time to be turned it into a piece of art! I’m not happy about using a paper mock up, as it cheapens the process (as I didn’t draw the piece) of creation. However, in order to get the desired end result, and the time I had to produce this, I choose to use a paper mock-up. Plus, since my drawing proportions and scale are not 100% on par, I didn’t want to risk screwing up.
Also, I used blue rubber gloves myself (nitrile) to protect my hands from both the pastels in the gloves, and the silicone. These gloves have also all been saved, and await the same fate as the previously mentioned materials. I’m thinking abstract, but it could develop into something else.
The latex gloves where adhered one by one, tiny piece by tiny piece to the plastic banner material, by spreading with a paint brush a thin layer of silicone onto the back of each piece. Then pushing each piece onto the surface. Very time consuming! But well worth it.
And that’s the gist!
Rethink. Reduce. Reuse. Repair. Recycle.