Thursday, 29 October 2009

A gruesome display

I made this grim display on top of one of the front room cupboards. It's just out of sight as you enter the living room and walking round the corner to the dining room it really stops you in your tracks! I think it's going to attract a lot of attention on Saturday, each exhibit has it's own identification card, with details of the grisly occupant of each vessel. I gathered a collection of glass vases and jars and grouped them into a nice formation before I started thinking about what was to go in each, one of the larger ones is sitting on a footed glass dessert bowl to give it extra height. The acorn shaped glass dome at the front is the shade from a dismantled vintage light fitting.

Brains and ears and lungs - oh my.

Here's what horror is in each - along with it's not so gruesome everyday description. All the specimens are suspended in a solution made with a few granules of instant coffee and a couple of drops of milk for cloudiness. It's the suggestion of shapes that make the display work, so each item was carefully judged and coloured until the vagaries of outline and texture just remained.

UNDEAD BRAIN - A cauliflower. To get it into this narrow necked vase I had to carefully slice it in two, close to the base, push each piece in separately, and then join them again using cocktail sticks.
VAMPIRIC HEART - A fennel bulb. I found it looked more realistic with the green outer layer removed, so I shaved this off with a potato peeler. The bulb I bought had five sprouting shoots, but I chopped the middle one out to leave just four 'valves'.
LEFT LUNG OF A WAILING BANSHEE - An old sponge. If you have one that's getting to end of life for car washing, then that's perfect as it's likely to be more holey and withered. I shaped the sponge to get rid of any harsh corners or straight edges. The addition of a few strands of red embroidery thread poked here and there into the sponge gives the impression of tendrils of blood seeping through tissue.
SEVERED EAR - Quite literally a rubber ear. I was working on a Halloween magazine this summer, and this treasure was sent in for possible covermount ideas. We deemed it far too creepy, and it was rejected. I rescued it and had it in my drawer till Halloween, it is just perfect for this display!
UNIDENTIFIED SPECIMEN - This is possibly the simplest yet most effective. It's a worn out foam cloth (the kind you buy to wipe worktops) again rescued from the car washing bucket. The weird growth attached to it? Is the strange twisty thing that you might sometimes find in the centre of a red pepper, tied on with a strand of muslin that resembles bandage.
ENTRAILS - noodles, tagliatelle and spaghetti! Boiled briefly to soften, and that's it!
BOLETUS LUPINUS (wolf mushroom) - Mushrooms. I was hoping to find a nice fat toadstool in the woods to place under this sinister dome, but dark evenings left me running out of time.

The whole display was a lot of fun to assemble, even though it left me feeling a little like Sweeney Todd in the process, and the kitchen looking like a science project gone haywire.

Thanks to Neil, official photographer, and scariest costume winner,  for use of the last photograph: Left Lung of a Wailing Banshee and,  foreground, Unidentified Specimen.

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