Walter McConnell is creating a new installation to debut this fall at the Bellevue Arts Museum.
The artist is best known for his unfired clay installations sealed in terrarium-like enclosures. For his exhibition at the museum, McConnell will construct a series of elliptical vitrines bearing nude male figures set in landscapes of moist red clay. The figure’s encapsulation is not simply a convenience of display, but rather an act of preservation; like a terrarium of rare flora these atmospheric capsules become veiled in condensation as light and heat draw moisture from the earthenware clay over the course of the exhibition.
The nude figures housed within McConnell’s vitrines originate from digitally scanned live models ranging in age from 2 to 83 years. A full-body scanner, housed in the School of Human Ecology at Cornell University, produces the data files, which are CNC milled or 3D printed. From these, plaster molds are made. The figures in the installation are terracotta facsimile, cast and pulled from these molds.
Visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to circulate from room to room on the Museum’s second floor to encounter this series of figural landscapes. None of McConnell’s clay figures are created at 1:1 scale, but rather range from the miniature to the monumental. The carefully choreographed gestures and odd scale relationships of the figures convey multivalent narrative themes, evocations of creation myth, gender roles, and the temporal, changing nature of mortal bodies and natural systems.