By: Ben Theriault, Staff Writer
A wonderful aspect of student life is the ubiquity of art within a college atmosphere. USM is home to many talented artists and the Free Press sought out to feature a student’s work for this week’s issue. Featured this week is Natasha Shacklett, a junior studying art education with a concentration in sculpting. Shacklett created two head busts made from candle wax. These fluid pieces of art change unpredictably once they are lit, providing the artist and the observers a multitude of new ways to interpret the piece.
For this project she made a plaster mold of the face, which she then filled with wax and a wick. While the wax was wet, she randomly dispersed messages she had typed on a typewriter within the head. Once the wick is lit the head slowly morphs and begins to reveal the messages; some are fully exposed, others partly, and some may never become revealed at all. Once exposed, the messages themselves burn and become their own independent wicks, further transforming the head.
This unique decision to destroy her own piece as part of the artistic statement adds further depth to the piece—rather than detracting from the beauty, the melting wax actually enhances it. The melting head is an eloquent way to demonstrate the way time changes humans both physically and mentally. Like the way the burning paper influences the shape of the head, our thoughts leave permanent imprints on us long after they are gone. This is a beautiful portrayal of the way we share thoughts, the way they impact us, and more enigmatically—a meditation on the ones that are not shared or never make it into fruition.
Shacklett stated that she likes that this piece will not last forever. Art that is always changing is an appealing concept to her. For her future projects she will be casting molds of her hands which she will then fill with wax and other notes and trinkets. She says that this piece will have even more intention.
Along with sculpting, Shacklett expresses herself through painting and printmaking. She is currently a student of Michael Shaughnessy.
In Shaughnessy’s sculpting classes, he emphasizes the theme of experimentation to his students. He believes that during this period in an artist’s education discovery is one of the most important experiences. Through this process, students expand their overall knowledge of the craft and then use that to create more powerful and intentional pieces.