When I arrived at the parking spot next to Equinox Studios in Georgetown, artist duo KeseyPollock were already six hours into the set-up for the day’s melt of “Wade Cox.” Steph Kese and Erin Pollock had spent several 14-hour workdays in a tarped-over parking spot and were planning to spend the next week in it as well. Each day consisted of transporting a body—actually a life-size wax casting of a person—from their studio in the International District to the melt site in Georgetown, where they would install their video camera, haul out their ladders and set up their propane torches and burners before placing the wax sculpture on a thick metal table specially designed and built for their unique melting process.
On the day that I visited the melt, friend and collaborator Christopher Robinson was assisting the artists. Robinson is a novelist and poet and had been the subject of this particular body cast. Inspired by a short story written by Robinson, KeseyPollock transformed a cream-colored, vaguely masculine wax casting of the author into a full color sculpture meticulously rendered to become the thug that they would affectionately call “Wade Cox.”
Robinson is only one of the many people who would see their likeness slowly melted into a pool of vivid colors. Others included art advocate and raconteur John Boylan, friends from KeseyPollock’s college days and fellow Seattle artists. The creative process truly begins after the casting. Drastic alterations take place; for example, one man was a first transformed into a drag queen, and ultimately ended up as a woman. The creation of each sculpture is just the starting point. KeseyPollock spend a great deal of time researching their materials and recording their findings. This includes discovering specific melting points for a wide variety of substances, from organic waxes to household foodstuffs such as Crisco, butter and lard. Their practice then consists of diagramming their concepts as full color renderings and schematics. With a thorough plan of action backed up by extensive research, they create a detailed character just to melt it back down, capturing a riveting video that tells a new story—one of love and loss, rebirth and resurrection, change and transformation.
Both artists are graduates of Whitman College, where they met and first began collaborating. After college, Kese went on to study cinematography in Buenos Aires and Pollock went to Florence to refine her sculpting techniques. The artists came together again in Alaska and they began creating castings of faces from the people in the diverse neighborhood of Mt. View, where they lived. Along the way, they have been commissioned to make public art and have shown their videos in settings such as Bumbershoot, the Northwest Film Forum and at Cannes.
Now the artists are residing in Seattle and working on their most ambitious project to date, one so large in scope that they took the plunge and made a Kickstarter campaign seeking $31k in funding. Their campaign was not only fully funded but brought the artists a sum nearly half again what they sought. With $45,712 pledged from 340 backers, the artists now had a task to realize a project that they had been dreaming up for the past five years.
Seven months later, the artists have sculpted a small band of characters, as over fifty people have come through their studio in the dilapidated Publix Hotel to be cast or to lend their time in the creating process. This collaboration with a variety of people is integral to their work. Erin Pollock’s mother was helping out on the day that I visited the studio. Several of the subjects attend the melts, lending a hand as their likeness melts and drips off of the steel table into multi-colored pools of wax, a beautiful abstract creation that is just a byproduct of one phase of their work.
The artists have hours of footage to edit as they enter home stretch of their project, with less than a month to go before the duo open their show Melting Bodies on June 29. In addition to the numerous films that will be presented, KeseyPollock will be presenting their gorgeous schematic drawings and paintings created throughout the process, and one casting will be left unmelted and on view.
The artists invite you to join in on the celebration of this project at the Belltown Collective, a space that developer Evolution Projects has generously lent to the artists. It’ll be an event that will showcase the tremendous efforts of these artists over the last seven months in vibrant colors and moving images. It is sure to be a show that will appeal to fans of maximalist art, video art and design savvy individuals that appreciate craft.
All images provided courtesy of Tuffer Harris Photography. Tuffer’s work can be found on his own website.
Jeremy Buben goes to art galleries, museums, performance dance shows and the best gumbo restaurants in Seattle. All of the time. You can read more of his suggested events and short subject posts at his blog Le Dandysme.