In this video I am working with an historic plasterworking technique, whereby wet plaster is drawn across the wall or bench to create decorative moldings. Here I’m using a tool I made from sheet metal and plywood to run wet plaster on the bench, creating a ceiling rose that will get installed once it is dry.
The traditional technique is used today primarily for restoration; I am utilizing the language of repair to make this work. My interest in historic techniques is related to the development of colonial architecture in the United States, and how traditions brought from Europe served to create towns and cities that developed the narrative of United States history understood today.
Colonial architecture and its legacy serve to shape the dominant narrative in the US. Historic stucco and plasterwork that ornament and shape colonial and colonial revival buildings follow European ideals of beauty, and are reflections of beauty, power, erasure, and the malleability of history in their fetishization of classical architectural forms. These displays of power perpetuate the dominant narrative and marginalize the colonized, people of color, and the working class. They are also an important piece of our cultural heritage and reflect Western societies’ love for grandiosity, craftsmanship and history—and were generally built and maintained by the working class and slaves. The tension apparent in these seemingly opposing aspects of colonialist architecture is where my inquiry into historic stucco begins.
My use of these plaster techniques and materials stems from my attraction to the materials and forms, my fascination with artisan and craft traditions, my own internalized architectural Eurocentrism, and my disdain for this very attraction to notions of European ideals of beauty.
My work is meant to address the contradictions inherent in the concern for conservancy and cultural heritage, and inhabit the spaces between the issues of loss, preservation, and attractive and repulsive aspects of our history. I intend for my work to address the complexity and layering of history, and how this layering and reinscribing contributes to whose histories and stories get written, and whose go untold, or get erased.