EMnXW’s creative series, ‘Heads’, a collection of portrait sculptures made from objects, memories, imagination, and an interest in medical imagery, is quite literally making heads turn.
When was the last time you counted the number of thoughts that ran simultaneously through your head? How many times have you created scenes and scenarios in your head only to have them pan out differently in reality? EMnXW, an artist duo comprising of Edwige Massart and Xavier Wynn, has created a series of surrealist portraits of the inner workings of the human head.
Aptly named ‘Heads’, the cerebral sculpture series can be interpreted as an attempt to lay open the clutter that exists in the average human head. Made up of found objects, memories, imagination, and an abject fascination with medical imagery, “the artwork is a marriage of interests and an exploration into identity,” say the Chicago based duo. Edwige is an art facilitator for the developmentally disabled, while Xavier works in marketing. “In our spare time, we make art,” they say.
Each artwork is essentially a story told through the elements it is made up of. Sourced from Edwige’s personal collection of found objects, every item is a part of the vocabulary and grammatical structure of the plotline. She found her first piece (of the collection) of a roman mosaic in the desert of Israel when she was just about four years old.
“Edwige’s insatiable curiosity about the world around her drives the plot, conflict and theme for each Head’s story. The actual collection is made up of coral vowels, leaf consonants, and bottle cap punctuation. Each letter selected has a very personal and specific relevance and sound.” Every element inside the sculpture is symbolic of a story and a time in the life of the artists.
If Edwige’s collection forms the elemental narrative of the artwork, it is Xavier’s keen interest in medical imagery that satisfies and brings to life its structural form, by “creating character and setting for the story.” At just nine years, Xavier had visited the ‘sliced bodies’ exhibit at the Field Museum of Natural History. It is from here that his tryst with human anatomy and medical imagery began. In fact, it can be said, that the exhibit is the literal inspiration for the series Heads. Xavier’s fascination with discovering what lies beneath our skin is what ultimately gives the stories a cover, binding, inner pages, and even a spine.
While surrealism began in the early 1920s, its many explorations and changes over the years, have allowed visual artists to bring forth their own form of drama and expression into the movement. Which is why, perhaps, the stories told by EMnXW’s Heads are significant, as they live up to the principles of surrealism, and showcase the duo’s inimitable style.
Typically, preparing a cross section of a human head requires sawing and dyeing to further the look and feel of each organ and section inside the head, parts we may have long forgotten about after having read them in our school textbooks. Even preservation via plastination is a tedious process. However, EMnXW’s head sculptures do not leave you squirming in your seats. But they do manage to make your eyeballs pop out, for sure!
What is breathtaking about these sculptures is the inherent pattern each one has. Even the colour palette and materials used conform to a kind of format and scheme. Some of the objects are a delight for curious minds. The myriad of found objects that nestle in the cross-sections are not just symbols of Edwige’s childhood and Xavier’s creative imagination – like parts of children’s toys, resin, cork pieces, etc – but are also stories which when compiled together, breathe a larger narrative.
Our favourite element in the entire series is the brain. Each sculpture uses different materials to depict the organ, and it is done with such astounding finesse. It is from here really that the stories and interpretations begin to come to life.
Each sculpture is numbered and is open to subjective interpretations. As viewers observe and examine the various compartments, sections, and materials that make up a piece, they make their own deductions and conclusions. “You never know what they might want to say to you – whispering their woes, screaming about their trials or even expressing pride at their achievements,” Edwige and Xavier add. They believe that each Head has its own story. And they’ve heard them all. So now, they’ve left it to the viewers to decide for themselves, which story they want to hear first, that is!
Text By Priyanka Menon
Photographs Courtesy EMnXW