I first noticed Christina Bothwell’s work on Pinterest, a cast glass and ceramic sculpture of what looked suspiciously like a woman’s spirit rising from her dead body. Of course, being Pinterest, there was no info on the artist or even the name of the piece. I am more thorough on my own Pinterest posting habits, je t’assure.
Beyond the immediate impression of ghosts and soforth, this piece reminded me of old Doctor Strange comics, a staple of my childhood. Steven Strange, Sorceror Supreme, would leave his earthly body in astral form to wage mystic battle as the situation demanded. You don’t get to be Master of the Mystic Arts without learning a few tricks. This is based on a fairly common aspect of cultural beliefs about the spirit – astral projection, lucid dreaming, aboriginal Australian dreamtime, that sort of thing. It’s not hard to think of examples of cross-cultural reverance we have for the dreaming mind. People often talk about out-of-body experiences at the point of death, and I suspect that in some ways dreaming is related to beliefs about the soul, in the same way that sleep is related to death. In a strictly cross-cultural spiritualist sense anyhow, for whatever that’s worth. What I’m getting at here is that this piece of art resonated very strongly with me and I found it really engaging.
Anyway, back to the artist – looking around on the interwebs, I found out Christina Bothwell’s name and hey, it turns out she is quite prolific and has made many of these small, engaging sculptures using a variety of media, though rooted in this ceramics & cast glass approach. They don’t all deal with this soul leaving the body idea but the idea of the body as a vessel does carry through much of her work. For example, many of Bothwell’s pieces have smaller objects embedded in them.
Here’s what Bothwell herself has to say about it:
In my work I am drawn to the processes of birth, death, and renewal. What lies below the surface fascinates me and I try to capture the qualities of the “unseen” that express the sense of wonder that I feel in my daily existence. I am attracted to glass because it can do everything that other sculptural media can; in addition, it offers an inner space and transmits light.
In some cases the vessel suggests pregnancy, like this recent piece:
While that seems pretty obvious, Bothwell has a more complex point to make:
My subject matter includes babies, animals, and children as they embody the essence of vulnerability that is the underlying theme in my work. Currently I am exploring metamorphosis as a topic, and have been incorporating figures within figures in my pieces. Within each glass figure there is a smaller figure seen through the surface of the glass.
I think of these pieces as souls, each being pregnant with their own potential, giving birth to new, improved versions of themselves.
More of Bothwell’s work can be seen on her site.