Tender Sphinx (2017–18)

Where the ‘secret’ joins the ‘strange,’ and the ‘strange’ encounters that ‘affective ambivalence, that tender sphinx we nourish, more or less secretly, at our core.

Tender Sphinx proposes a consideration of adornment as body.


The series consists of works hung from the ceiling using both traditional sculptural materials and materials used to clothe or adorn the human body. Dyed concrete coats foam to create abstracted bodies cinched with jeweler’s copper, bra elastic, weave (hair extensions), zip-ties, rope and ceramic rings. Fabrics and pre-made garments are nestled and interwoven with these bodies, which are each joined tightly and hung from an apex. The resulting format is at once precarious and fixed. Through scale and shape, the works suggest without mimicking standing human forms.

Binding is the unifying motif of the works. As a formal strategy it most overtly links notions of ‘fetish’ as a sexualized presentation of body parts and as a pagan religious object. It is the fragmentary effect of isolating of body parts targeted to be deformed, which is linked to the rarified object. Chinese foot binding, Burmese neck elongation and Victorian overlaced corsets to name a few, turned specific sections of the body into mutated, partitioned platforms for adornment. First the body is subjected to a process of segmentation and second is only capable of achieving the status of ideal when fused with accompanying encasement or adornment.

These bound objects are capable of creating that secret, strange, affective ambivalence toward notions of fetish, which nourishes the Tender Sphinx. They project a strange internal power beyond comprehension or physical response. Binding is a formal physical residue of a performative action which looks to contain, or hold forcefully together, things that are otherwise fleeting.

Historian Anne Hollander cites the formation of women’s dressmaker’s guild in 1675 as the first moment in the West of women dressing women. Henceforth, the woman’s body became a space to project fantasy and frivolousness. Given women’s limited external opportunities for creation or exhibition, their bodies and the clothing that adorned them thus transformed into personalized fields of portable sculpture. The body became the stage, the platform.

Even after the legacies of Gutai, Object Performance, and Club Kids, the constructed body, (here referring to the physical and energetic space that the adorned or otherwise altered body projects), is often considered a lesser art space. Without a punctuated action to frame it as performance, a construction on the body is relegated to fashion, costume or eccentric affect. Tender Sphinx externalizes the body in order to eschew this conceptual marginalization and to address body-object problem. In this way, the series transposes costume onto an integrally material surrogate body in order to frame the fem clothed-body as a psycho-phenomenological whole.

en.trañ.a.da (detail)
lockheroom (detail)