A child’s first stuffed animal. The tarsal of a saint. A purse that costs as much as a car. Subjects of irrational reverence, they remind us of the precarious contingencies of our desires: what we really value are essences, not properties.
In a radical gesture, Duchamp declares a urinal to be Fountain. With radical intentionality, sculptors Sebastian Martorana, Barbara Segal, Stephen Shaheen and Alasdair Thomson anoint metamorphosed lumps of shells as Shirt, Canvas, Cinder Block, Bone. This is not a Chanel bag. Or is it? Both are crafted and craved for their symbolic capital. Yet there is something phenomenologically different when intention is invested through making, by an aggregate of thousands of decisions and an intense realization process requiring years of training. In an era where machines can produce simulacra in marble for anyone with an idea and a credit card, representation comes with new responsibilities—and new implications, when rendered by hand.
These four artists, whose honed skills seem avantgarde in a scene saturated with externalized modes of production, present confoundingly scrupulous works in marble. It is not virtuosity on display, but virtuosic carving in the service of a fierce intention. Objects of devotion pursued obsessively, fetishizations of fetishes, sculpted fetishistically.