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Our fourth Draper Experiment installment features Spider Mother, a series of white microcrystalline wax vessels by Clay Dunklin. In this site-specific installation, Dunklin arranges a web of 30 shallow, bowl-like forms that are inverted skullcaps cast from the artist's own head. Through the use of projection mapping software, Dunklin's vessels appear to glow and emanate their own pulsating light, forming an alien terrain of seemingly living, breathing "beings."
Dunklin describes the title Spider Mother as a "loose interpretation of arachnoid mater, the Latin name of one of three protective layers surrounding the brain. The arachnoid mater is a relatively open space with the exception of a web-like meshing that fills with cerebrospinal fluid to cushion the brain. In 2017, I underwent medical testing and hospitalization for a rare, debilitating neurological disease called HaNDL that causes a buildup of fluid around the brain, resulting in intense pressure." As a result of his medical experience, and after experimenting with the materials, Dunklin began production of the vessel series. He designed the exhibition for an enhanced, multi-sensory experience using light from projectors and speakers placed discreetly in the corners of the gallery space. Placing them low enough to the floor, the speakers enable sound from the audio track of original recordings to emanate from the objects themselves. Further, the audio track personifies the spider mother herself by echoing distantly, as if singing a lullaby nearby. By placing the installation vessels on the floor of the gallery, the artist intercepts familiar navigation by creating an unfamiliar environment. These vessels retain the eerie essence of a skull cap, or spider abdomen. In this context, the skull cap castings appear as hatchlings from which the mother spider's babies have emerged to be nurtured in an imagined adjacent nursery. Thus, instead of being designed to catch prey, Dunklin invites the viewer to an immersive and visually nurturing experience in the tangled web of waxed vessels.
Clay Dunklin is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in the Baltimore/D.C. area whose experimental practice includes performative, video, and installation works. Dunklin has exhibited his work nationally, including shows at the Orlando Science Center and the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center. Dunklin is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Maryland, College Park, and received his BFA in drawing at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
E. Avery Draper Gallery
The Delaware Contemporary
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