Victoria Fuller’s Sculpture Chosen for Rockford Art Museum Permanent Collection

Victoria Fuller’s sculpture in the 76th Rockford Midwestern Biennial was awarded the Dean Alan Olson Purchase Award, to the artist whose work has been selected for inclusion in the Rockford Art Museum Permanent Collection.

The following is a description of the piece and its process:

I am really into interesting shapes, forms and textures. I love science and natural history displays in museums. Peanut Plant revolves around and is influenced by science, nature, surrealism, 60’s pop art, kitsch Americana and gigantism. 

I chose to make several artworks with peanuts because I love the shape and texture of peanut shells. They have a protruding and indented waffle like pattern on them, with an hourglass shape, or figure 8 shape. These interconnecting shapes, usually contain two peanuts, like twins. I also see a similar shape form, when looking at illustrations of a cell dividing. 

Before studying peanuts, I didn’t know that peanuts actually grew underground where the roots are. I thought that they grew of the area of the stems and leaves. I made my sculpture “Peanut Plant” to be like a display in a Natural History Museum where a micro world is enlarged to show the details of what is happening on the micro level. In this case I enlarged a peanut plant demonstrating how peanuts form underground in the root area of the plant. Pop art sculptures of giant food, made in the 1960’s, like Claes Oldenburg’s floor burger, spoon and cherry and giant chocolate cake, were influences in the creation of this work, as well as gigantism which is found in Kitsch Americana, such as – an ice cream store in the shape of a giant ice cream cone, the Oscar Meyer wiener mobile or a giant roadside tourist attraction of Paul Bunyan.  

The peanuts are made from flax fiber, which I bought from a paper making store. First, I sculpted them in clay and then made a silicone mold of them, then I combined the loose flax fiber with water and wheat paste in a blender, and then I pressed that slurry of wet fiber into the silicone mold with a sponge, pressing out as much water as possible. Since silicone can be baked up to 450 degrees in an oven, I baked the molds with the flax fiber mixture in an oven at 350 degrees, for an hour and then let them finish drying under heat lamps. When they were dry, I popped them out of the molds and then glued two halves together. It is remarkable how close the color and texture of the flax fiber is to actual peanuts. 

It took me months of experimentation to find the right materials to make the leaves, stems and roots. I finally found a bolt of green cotton cloth for the leaves and created the veins and stems with wire. I attached the wire using spray glue which I sandwiched between two sections of the cloth material and I used clear gloss acrylic for the shiny leaf finish. I made the giant stem by using half inch thick aluminum armature wire and then wrapped them with upholstery foam and medical gauze. Then I added many layers of Acrylic paint to create the finish on the stems. The roots were also made of wrapped wire covered with acrylic paint.