Humor, Terror, Shyness Abound in Sculptures by Laura Ford
Above is a sculpture titled, Weeping Girl. It is strategically placed on a wall, hiding her face from the world as she grieves, who knows what misfortune.
Laura Ford’s sculptures are multi-media works. They may include traditional sculpture materials such as bronze and ceramic. They also include fabric and other less traditional materials.
Her subjects are often children. She also creates animals with human characteristics.
While her works could be initially viewed as sentimental, take a deeper look.
Forget preconceived ideas of whimsy or sentimentality. There’s comedy, certainly – but frequently with a sinister edge. And sometimes, as with those forlorn girls, her vein of anthropomorphic fable vanishes to reveal a raw anguish or dread.
Another sculpture of young girls is Medieval Cloud Girls. Located inside the mansion for this display, at first glance they appear as if they are 3 dimensional versions of one of the many portraits hanging on the walls. But then again, they are disquietly different.
Many critics link Ford’s own childhood to her unique style. She was raised in a family of carnies. The carnival sideshow may have very well informed some of her imagery, but it is a bit of a creepy one. Perhaps a cross between a carnival and a Stephen King novel.
The artist claims there is no story behind her works however. Perhaps it is purposeful, or purely a conjuring of her subconscious.
Contrasting her work with Beatrix Potter, a renowned creator of anthropomorphic characters, Ford’s critters are less gentile and comfy-cozy.
These animals have lost their storybook gentility and are now on the skids. Downwardly mobile, a Mrs Tiggywinkle-type hedgehog has become a bag-lady, complete with laden trolley. Clad in no doubt whiffy rags, badger rifles through a rubbish bin. A down-and-out fox begs outside the tea-room door. Austerity has traumatised the nursery.
Some of the sculptures do appear to be a commentary on the vulnerabilities faced by children–both kids of today and of yesteryear.
Armour Boys depicts 5 small figures on floor. Do they speak to violence done to children today? Are they representing children forced to be soldiers?
When she creates her animals in the scale and garb of children, what is the message that is being read by the viewer. By using penguins rather than children does that make it easier to understand? Or by using animals do we see something that we might have overlooked if the artist had used human models?
If you are in Great Britain this spring and summer, you might be interested to wander around two amazing great homes. While you are at it, you might just stumble across a Weeping Girl or two and come to your own conclusions.
Read Boyd Tonkin’s original article as it appeared in the Independent
‘Laura Ford: Seen and Unseen’, at Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, Cumbria until 25 June, and at Blackwell: the Arts & Crafts House, Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria, until 4 September (abbothall.org.uk; blackwell.org.uk)