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Tethering the line between beauty and grotesque: with Ophelia Arc

Ophelia Arc

Sketches, sculptures, movies and installations are among the mediums Ophelia Arc, a multidisciplinary artist residing in New York, uses in her creations. Her trademark pieces are sculptures made from her own crochet textiles. All of them feature nude and pink colours inspired by the colours found on the human body. We were fortunate to speak with Ophelia Arc to learn more about her unique sculptures and her art journey.

She first entered the field of art through sketches, which paved the way for her to start making commissions. During this time, she believed that producing commission pieces limited her creatively and made her begin to lose her love of making art. Ophelia had always wanted to explore sculpture but had a fear that it would not be sustainable or lucrative. However, after the pandemic hit she decided to pivot into sculpture and finally explore her interest.

Ophelia Arc studio

Ophelia uses crotchet as the main textile element within her sculptures. She is inspired by Louise Bourgeois’ works and art that presents soft sculptures with a tender feeling of fabric. She found that crocheting her own textile pieces felt more hands-on. Not only does crotchet allow her to have full control of all the elements within her work but the making of these crochet textiles is a therapeutic and calming process for her. She likened the process to a ceramicist making the clay they use to sculpt.

Her first large-scale yarn piece was made from a range of different colours as the yarn was donated by people within her neighbourhood. She then realised her preference for shades of pink in her work and created a colour palette using the nude colours she found on her body as a reference to herself. Beginning with three accent colours she now experiments and dyes her own yarn.

“Pink is delicate but can also turn people off, some of the most grotesque parts of the body are pink. I love to tether on the line of beauty and grotesque.”

Ophelia takes an academic approach when starting a new art piece taking the time to undergo thorough research on the topics she explores. Once a topic is chosen, she conducts research compiling a list of sources from academic journals and creates notes. After she has dissected a topic, she creates a mood board and a concept sketch. This is followed by an experimental phase of trying out different weights of yarn or stitches to find what would best fit the vision of the piece.

Ophelia Arc studio

Ophelia’s outlook on art changed after seeing work by Mira Lee. Lee’s abject, gushy almost indelicate sculptures often make use of infused water pumps. This intrigued her as Mira’s work focuses on taboo subject matters. Ophelia learned that there was a place for people to do some weird and wonderful work and get vulnerable instead of keeping to surface-level topics.

She explained why art is a great medium to express complex topics and important messages.

“I think art has a way of creating visual interest and starting conversation. Even with my work, a lot of the topics I make discuss subjects that aren't always talked about. There's that visual aspect of oh that looks weird or cool or interesting then people want to learn what it's about and it starts the dialogue.”

She describes art as a bridge to more gatekept concepts. Complicated topics within politics or psychology can be dissected through art in a tactile visual way which is much easier than reading academic texts. It opens up people to topics that they may have not otherwise explored.

When it comes to creating works that channel her personal traumas, she does not shy away despite how triggering it may be. It is a way of taking control of one's trauma and processing it in the way you want to. In her video pieces such as ‘Loving Family’ and ‘i don't know why i can't let go’ she uses family audio footage and her personal medical documents as components, bearing all in the name of art.

coming undone video piece

“I think it's necessary and I think it's a really important process not only for an artist but for anyone dealing with traumatic experiences to face them, especially at their own hand and control as opposed to some sort of exposure therapy where someone is telling them how far to push themselves.”

It also creates a space for people to relate, feel understood or gain more insight into experiences they might not have suffered. Ophelia said a very healing experience for her was seeing someone cry while watching one of her videos. It reminded her that she wasn’t creating such honest and vulnerable art for nothing. It was connecting with people and it made the triggering experience of revisiting these memories worthwhile.

In future, Ophelia aims to produce more installation work as she finds the merging of sculpture and video a more immersive experience for the viewer. While still focusing on the huge range of topics she can explore within psychoanalysis and feminist theory she aims to create more portrait work going forward, using herself as her own source material.

in carnage: the act of starvation

Ophelia’s goal is to make work that intrigues the viewer and opens up an important dialogue. However, she wants her art to be for everyone to enjoy whether it is just interesting to look at and post on Instagram or inspire intelligent debate.

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