DANIELLE MCCULLOUGH
Pelt
2009
Chicken wire, socks, polyfil, zipties, acrylic yarn, wood *dimensions vary depending on install.
48x24x240 inches *
This piece was inspired by images and film footage from the primate lab research of behavioral psychologist Harry Harlow, who tried to scientifically prove that an infant’s love for its mother exists as its own physiological and psychological need, separate from the primary drives (hunger, thirst, pain). Harlow incubated one group of baby rhesus monkeys with cold, wire “mothers” who dispensed milk from bottles, and another group with heated, terry cloth-covered “mothers” who gave no food. The monkeys raised by the wire "mother" alone were plagued with nervous digestive systems and all monkeys chose to cling to the soft warm "mother", rather than the wire food source "mother", when they were frightened. I was struck by Harlow’s melancholic quest to prove an intangible ideal through empirical methods and by his delusion that monkeys would share his association of warm textiles with loving mothers. His description of the soft surrogate sounds like his dream woman. In his words, she is "soft, warm, and tender, a mother with infinite patience, a mother available twenty-four hours a day, a mother that never scolded her infant and never struck or bit her baby in anger...we designed a mother-machine with maximal maintenance effiency.."
My flayed wire mother is at once inviting and barbarous; a supine chicken wire structure, covered with hundreds of stuffed used socks and fluorescent zip-ties, pounds of acrylic yarn spilling from her anterior and posterior. This is a floor piece, and can be expanded or contracted to accommodate various environments.


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