ARTeries: The “Plastic” Arts

Claes Oldenburg - Apple
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Arteries - exploring embroidered expressions with Arlee Barr

Plastic? Fibristos and Fibristas, this is not about bags or pop bottles! Soft sculpture is one of the “plastic” arts–forms that are persistent rather than permanent, the arts of shaping, modeling, manipulation and creating volume in materials other than stone, glass, metal or wood. Often metaphorical, or with metaphysical meaning, these larger than life creations can point up the absurdity of a subject, or transcend its daily meaning and function. These malleable materials reference the ’70’s when the revival of interest in craft traditions became both more experimental  and more mainstream as Art mediums.

From Claes Oldenberg’s giant vinyl foods and Meret Oppenheim’s fur covered tea cup and saucer with hairy spoon, to Camilla Taylor’s oddly disturbing but appealing life forms and Danny Mansmith’s revisitation of the ordinary object, soft sculpture is more than felt plushies, nylon needle sculpted doll faces and oddly shaped cushions.

We often forget the other meanings of “plastic”: in the hands of the skilled and visionary, materials as diverse as paper, textiles, hair and plant material and the most ubiquitous of all, actual plastic,  are able to be manipulated, influenced and shaped. The intrinsic qualities of the medium can be exploited or it can be made to do or appear as if it were another material.

Claes Oldenburg Apple Core Sculpture
Claes Oldenburg

Claes Oldenburg

Meret Oppenheim
Meret Oppenheim

Meret Oppenheim

Elizabeth Ingraham/from the "Skins" series
Elizabeth Ingraham/from the “Skins” series

Elizabeth Ingraham

Karen Elizabeth Reese/"Garibaldi"
Karen Elizabeth Reese/”Garibaldi”

No info available–sorry!

Barbara Schulman/"Lace Maker's Daughter"
Barbara Schulman/”Lace Maker’s Daughter”

Barbara Schulman

Hans Belmer/"½ Poupee"
Hans Belmer/”½ Poupee”

Hans Belmer

Rachel Bernstein
Rachel Bernstein

Rachel Bernstein

See Also
Featured image, by Faye Arguelles

Dorothee Van Biesen/Microscopic Inspirations
Dorothee Van Biesen/Microscopic Inspirations

Dorothee Van Biesen/Brode&Roll

Camilla Taylor
Camilla Taylor

Camilla Taylor

And for fun, try out this (downloadable PDF) with either the Picasso inspiration, or your own favourite artist, or your own art!


Arlee Barr is a Canadian artist, working primarily with textiles. She describes herself as “curious, eccentric and just a little opinionated“.  Surrealist in thought, Fauvist at heart, Arlee likes the eclectic, explorative and absurd. Sprinkled around the interwebs, she can be found hanging around her fantastic blog.

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