By Karen Baldner
Bloomington, Indiana: Karen Baldner, 2003. Edition of 10.
13.5 x 11 x 10.75"; 4 head casts. Sculptural book. Pigmented handmade paper, cast from a plaster cast of the artist's head. Inclusions of sisal twine and stenciled text. Housed in 13.5 x 10.75 x 11" orange silk box with paper title label on lid and bone-and-bookcloth closure. Dropdown side for retrieving sculpture.
From the artist's website, Process: German/Jew: "The casts are made from couched sheets that are laid tightly onto plaster surface. Sheets are formed from a white base layer with embedded twine and a layer of tea-stained stencils on each side. The sheets are pressed before applying stencil to second side. Sheets are pressed again after second side is stenciled with text. They are then laid onto plaster cast and patted firmly onto its surface.
"Four sets of half portraits (left and right side of head) are cast for the entire book. The embedded twine is used for assembling the book structure at the back of the head through braids."
German/Jew is made of four hollow paper heads, one on top of the other. The heads wee molded from a plaster cast of the artist's head. The innermost head is whole while the other three are split down the face and overlay or wrap around the inner head. Because the three casts do not close (that is, meet to give a seamless look) the sculpture gives the effect of multiple personalities, or at least layered dimensions, of what may seem a single entity from the outside. The words, stenciled into the paper, seem to be variations of German and Jew - repeated, colliding, and infringing upon each other.
Karen Baldner: "The inspiration to my work is the duality of the human condition. What fascinates me is the seeming paradox of opposites, dichotomies of all sorts living side by side with each other in my own life, in that of others, and in the grander history of human kind: brutality and beauty, grace and grotesque, repulsiveness and dignity. In my work each new piece is a kind of alchemic act towards living with this paradox."
Here the paradox and the difficulty of being German and Jew are foregrounded.