Arts & Culture / Mosaic / November 14, 2018

Student sculptor explores gender, bodies and queerness

 

Senior Eli Adams stands in Adams’ studio next to materials that will be used in future projects. (Rafael Cho/TKS)

Editor’s note: Eli Adams does not use pronouns and will be referred to only by last name.

Senior Eli Adams has used art as a way to express Adams’ identity since Adams was a child. Nowadays, Adams uses art to understand the importance of bodies, gender and queerness in hopes of helping others with their identity struggles and connecting with others.

“I like representing some of the things I’m struggling with. I like talking with people and seeing what they’re struggling with and helping them translate that into something joyous,” Adams said.

As a child, Adams’ focus in art was based on drawing and painting, however, when the artist got to college, Adams saw how that art form was limiting. Adams then went on to discover film and sculpture and realized these mediums were more versatile for what the artist wanted out of art.

“[Painting] was definitely one of my biggest weaknesses because I would just put everything in the center. I realized that was because I’m not as interested in working on a flat space as I am working in a 3D space,” Adams said.

Since sculpting was not Adams’ original art form, the artist had to learn the skill by taking numerous classes at Knox.

“I’m learning how to sculpt while I’m sculpting. I’m trying to be successful in narratives and [showing] people these ideas through my sculptures, [while] also learning how to use plaster, and whether I like plaster or not,” Adams said.

Although the class received a $50 stipend at the beginning of the term, sculpting requires many materials. Adams finds it’s a struggle to get all of the materials needed for the assignments.

“I look at Craigslist all the time, I go to the free store all the time. I go to thrift stores or garage sales where stuff is cheaper and buy people’s sheets and stuff… I’m not doing things the easiest way but I don’t have the money to do it the easiest way,” Adams said.

This is “Untitled” made out of expired condoms and plaster. (Rafael Cho/TKS)

To combine the passion of film and sculpture, Adams continues the idea of showcasing the human body. Sometimes the sculptures that Adams creates requires humans to be a part of them. Adams then films a recording of the interaction between the sculpture and the human model. This is how Adams can blur the lines of representing the human body as an object in a sculpture.

Adams does not want to be objectifying anyone when representing them in a sculpture. To do this, the person may have to hold, pet, or have the sculpture sitting in their lap Ð this way the model can be seen doing some sort of action rather than just standing lifelessly still. The works become about the relationship between the person and the sculpture, which is less “ethically muddy,” as Adams puts it.

Although the difficulties of art, as Adams explains, are dealing with constant failures and having extreme discipline — Adams still recognizes that, even while studying pre-med, art will not stop being a passion.

If it weren’t for an extensive background in art, Adams believes studying medicine would be much more difficult. Adams explains that hospitals are looking more and more for personnel staff that are good with people. Adams’ human-centered work helps with bedside manner skills.

“Looking at art is an exercise in empathy because you have to put yourself in another person’s shoes but you also have to reconcile where you are coming from with this piece,” Adams said.

Though Adams’ future plans are based around the medical field, the senior plans to take a gap year between graduating and applying to medical school. Adams hopes to use that time to make art for personal use.

“I look at the world through an artist’s eyes, I’m always looking for material to inspire me, [my] artist mode is never off: I’m not just an artist when I’m in Whitcomb,” Adams said I’m always thinking about how other people’s work influences my work, because my work is such a part of my life.”

Sadie Cheney

Tags:  44 plays for 44 presidents artist identity pre-med sculptor sculpture Student studio art

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