Rosewood

Caitlin McCormack Rosewood 2015 crocheted cotton string & glue 24.5”h x 18.75”w x 2”d

According to her website, the artist Caitlin McCormack uses cotton string to make her skeletal forms, for the specific reason that, “the act of stiffening crocheted cotton string with glue produces material that is structurally similar to delicate bone tissue”.

I find this piece appealing because of the simultaneous suggestion of birth and death; the obvious skeleton implying death but then the almost fetal position at which the piece is angled, along with the fragile bones—those of a young, newborn animal suggesting birth. The way the frame captures the harmless creature’s remains in a rounded, protective way reminds me of the way a mother is depicted when pregnant, encasing and wrapping round the baby, within a shielded sphere.

McCormack has created an entrancing scene through the use of stark colours—the white cotton against the bold, black frame—yet despite this simple and straightforward technique, the piece looks sophisticated. It contains large amounts of information within the realms of the frame, absorbing the viewer, and forcing them to observe each segment of the skeleton.

Leaving a few of the strands within the crochet is an organic method of working and an interesting technique, emphasising the theme and increasing the detail amongst all the bones.Thinking about this piece of work as a scientific diagram or illustration, the excess pieces of material act like veins, once again highlighting the ideas of birth and death and giving the piece a sense of life.

McCormack has laid out the different parts of the skeleton in a deliberate manner, giving the artwork a ghoulish effect, particularly with the way the hands and feet are tucked up the ribcage is bent and the tail looks to be in an unnatural position. With the slightly open mouth, and somewhat tensed bones in the hands there is also a sense of a creature’s animal nature and way of being.

Compared to the way I respond to some of McCormack’s other pieces, the way this is laid out and presented makes me feel more comfortable, because there is less of a ‘preserved’ approach. Some of the other items in this collection look as though they are being contained in a glass cabinet, away from humanity, like museum exhibits, whereas Rosewood gives me the impression that this is how the skeleton of this animal would be found in the natural world. This is what I find appealing about this work in particular.

Lara Hooke