Visitor responses

During this second artist residency I have been opening the doors to the Gothic Hall every day to allow the visitors to Elvaston Castle a glimpse inside the artist studio. I have been fascinated with the responses of the visitors whether it be a comment to each other or to their children, or a comment made directly to me.

Children seem naturally to be very inquisitive with every aspect of the artwork on show, I’ve overheard their “what is it?” questions to parents and carers  and the response is fascinating. Answers have ranged from; “I don’t know, it’s art” to “these are artworks and they represent what the artist is feeling or experiencing” or they add “lets go find out”. The children and adults alike have seemed to be interested in what I have been creating or enjoy watching me as I carve into a block of plaster, they want to know why I am creating that shape, or what tools I am using or what is it going to be.

As a little experiment I have numbered all my plaster carvings from 1-13 and placed a note book and pen among them with a question “Which carving do you like and why”. Here are some of the responses, (you can look up the relevant carvings on earlier posts):

  • No 7. Looks like four crescent moons fused together

  • No 7 looks like a star

  • No 6 reminds me of an affectionate hug

  • No 7 reminds me of a crabs claws

  • No 5 Reflection of a natural form such as a fossil but equally of a millstone. The roundness of the sculpture is soft on the eye.

  • No 8 a big hug

  • No10 large nut

  • No 2 Earth like

  • No 6 Looks different from every view

  • No 6 I like it because its very smooth and pretty, also I like the shape of it

  • No 8 It reminds me of a child reaching up to hug an adult

  • No 6 Two swans whispering secrets

  • No 7 It looks like a dragon claw - raaaah!

  • No 1 Reminds me of a Yoga pose

  • No 6 Looks like Rams horns

  • No 2 I like the triangular outer form and the inner comma shape

  • No 5 Mill stone

  • No 13 Looks like Ghosts (Elliot aged 4)

  • No 7 It’s my favourite shape, its the best, it looks like bananas (Also Elliot aged 4 who spent a long time deliberating on his favourite)

  • No 7 It reminds me of claws

Such a wide variety of comments and I was surprised which shapes were being favourited, completely the opposite to my own preference. Some people said they were seeing female genitals which is interesting as many people saw male genitals in my older work. I don’t set out to make the female or male parts but the natural world is full of shapes that could be viewed as genitals.

Many visitors are drawn to touch the art, parents say to their children “don’t touch it’s art” or don’t bother saying anything and let their children do what they like, but most inform them to “ask the lady” and they are really happy when I point out a touching table. This table has resulted in some fascinating discussions with adults and children alike as they experience through their fingers. 

It’s not just the children who want to touch, the plaster carvings seem to draw adults and every day they ask if they can touch, I always say yes. Whenever I visit a museum or gallery I often feel very frustrated at not being able to touch and experience the artwork through my fingers, so when there is the opportunity to touch I always do. It is such a pleasing sight to see some one enjoying touching your art work and getting joy from it. 

Is the texture or surface of the sculpture as important as the look?

What are your own experiences ?