Boliou Lecture Hall, 4:15 p.m.
My work this year has focused on two dramatic events: the birth of my daughter twelve months ago and the ongoing battle with esophageal cancer that started for my mother eight months ago. As these events unfold I am struck by the parallels between them in specific, growth which both creates and destroys at an amazing rate controlled in the cells of a fetus, uncontrolled in a cancer.
While my daughter was in the womb I became fascinated by my wifes expanding belly and the activities inside. I tracked this by taking periodic casts of her torso and scanning these into a three-dimensional computer modeling program in order to study both the surface growth and the volumetric changes as they occurred. I took frontal and profile photos of my wife twice a week to create a flip-book as a witness to this miraculous inflation. After my daughter was born I used the same program and a digital 3D pointer, along with thousands of photos to track her maturation, as a way of staying sane and imaginative during three months of gut-wrenching colic. This digital documentation led to several pieces, two included here: 39 weeks, which is derived from a mold of the pregnant belly one week before delivery,and a conversation between life and death, which is based on the shape created while lifting my motion-soothed daughter above my head and the stairs we climbed on those endless early nights.
My mothers cancer took us all by surprise. A survivor of the occupation of Greece during World War II, she had always been an icon of invincibility. Esophageal cancer is particularly swift in its destruction, my mothers tumor spiked in size by a factor of five over just two months. While poring over medical 3D imagery of cancerous cells and researching models of their development, I searched for a sculptural metaphor for the sort of growth on display in the rabid, metastasizing cells inside her body (perhaps the nightmare counterpart to the ecstatic dream of pregnancy). Using steam-bent oak wrapped obsessively around a spherical frame which is then shellacked and burned, I intend to capture the frenzied and random destruction of malignancy.
Stephen Mohring teaches sculpture at Carleton College.