Spot Painting - After Damien Hirst / by Kasey Smith

 Spot Painting - After Hirts

Spot Painting - After Hirts

While the word dynamic has connotations of speed, it is not defined by such. Constant, perpetual motion can be slow as molasses in January. Oozing imperceptibly on the edge of sight.

Sluggish. Snailish.  

Before the TifFAUXny Snails, my first snail daydreams involved recreating Damien Hirst's Spot Paintings. I wanted to watch color and structure disintegrate, degrade, migrate off the canvas, cease to be legible as Art. It would be a triumph of the organic, meandering line over the formal, mechanical grid. And it needed to be as large as my disdain for the original source material.

But I struggled to scale this dream, to find enough snails of uniform size to "read" as a proper Hirst. During this period, each one I found therefore became valuable. A thing to seek out. A thing to collect. And in the end, a thing to nurture. I became overwhelmed by the effort all this entailed. Maybe they were better off as singular objects instead of an expansive collection of interchangeable multitudes. Maybe they weren't spots after all, maybe they were more like an objet d'art?

And so that is what they became. That is, until they started to breed...

 simulacra

simulacra

The average garden snail lays 50 to 80 eggs at a time. By the time there were four permanent residents in the TifFAUXny snail tank... well, let's just say that proximity led to affection. A LOT of affection. In the end, three clutches were hatched over a six month period. One died due to neglect on my part, one I released, and one became art.

The baby snails were, after all, of uniform size and quantity for a proper spot painting.

Some problems have unexpected solutions. 

 On the move.

On the move.

I painted these babies with the most gentle, non-toxic watercolor I could find (the adults are painted with acrylic paint and nail polish) and arranged them on my patio. The whole performance painting took about 10 minutes, during which time the spot painting was assembled by myself, and deconstructed by the participating baby snails. Once the painting reached a critical destructive mass, I moved the babies to a nearby planter, after which our story ends. 

 Snail pile.

Snail pile.

Snail reproduction is a numbers game - lay a large clutch of translucently delicate offspring and hope that some slim percentage makes it to adulthood. I found no evidence that the babies died; but two years later the patio is snail-free so I have no evidence they survived. 

Either way, for ten minutes they were an Art. And for ten minutes, they destroyed an Art. Sluggishly. Snailishly. Dynamically.