In our art course, The Great Pretender, our first action project was to create a kinetic sculpture. We found Power Animals whose movements we then studied and based the sculpture on. By observing the motion of my animal, an otter, I discovered a lot about the way its body works and moves that I had never noticed or understood before. I also enjoyed creating river scenery out of clay on the base of the piece. The process I followed for the project is detailed in the artist statement below.

Alice Welna
September 2012
Slip & Slide
Clay, wire, cardboard
18.75 in / 10.25 in / 7.25 in

The piece contains three tracks that represent the motion of an otter sliding, the human imitation of sledding, and the mechanical imitation of a lawn mower. To create this piece, we first had to discover our own Power Animals. We did a visualization exercise to have an idea of what animal would help us when we were in danger: for me, it was an otter. We used the iching, a form of Chinese fortune telling, to find elements that connected to our Power Animals. Mine included water and fire, which to me represents otters because they are aquatic animals (water) but also land mammals (fire).
After researching the animals more, we began to observe various movements made by the animals and sketch them to get a sense of the shape and how it moved. When the time came to narrow it down to one action, I chose sliding, which represents otters’ fun energy. I created a flipbook of an otter sliding to study the movement. The next step was to make that movement linear, and find lines for the human and mechanical imitations. My tracks, other than the otter’s slide, are sledding and a lawn mower. These lines were drawn and then became wire tracks on the sculpture, held up by clay. Beads molded from Sculpy run along the wires like the animals or object they represent.
The otter track loops in the beginning as a way of showing how the animal’s body curls as it runs in preparation for the long, straight slide. Humans, just like otters, have recreational sliding when we go sledding. We push off the ground a few times for speed–shown in the track by jagged bumps–and then slip down the hill. Lawn mowers have the same straight glide over the ground, but no take-off is required, so the machine track is simply a straight line.

The clay holding up each track & the beads that run along them have specifically selected colors. The blue for the otter represents water, the natural element where the animal spends most its time. The white on the human track is for the snow we sled on. For the machine’s track there is green, since lawn mowers slide over green grass. On the cardboard base is a river with muddy banks along the side. It was created by sticking and smearing layers of colored clay all over the board. The image of flowing water represents the otter’s natural habitat and calls to mind its slippery movements.