Look closely at these peacocks and you’ll notice something amazing: They are made of polished nail tips and metallic hair barrettes. Artist Laurel Roth juxtaposes traditional craft and artisanal techniques with non-traditional materials to examine mankind’s drive to modify itself and its environment. The peacocks in her sculpture series borrow human mating plumage (like polished nails) to show our adaptations and natural orders as their own.
Roth fills us in on the development of this sculpture series:
NAILS: Why peacocks specifically?
Roth: Peacocks are often associated with vanity and beauty and have one of the most recognizable displays of mating plumage in commonly known birds, so they seemed like a natural choice of models for a project relating to physical display, plumage, and beauty.
NAILS: Are you trying to convey judgment on human mating rituals, such as polished fingernails or styled hair?
Roth: That’s an interesting question, and one I try to leave a bit open to viewer interpretation. Male birds, in particular, grow and discard fabulous mating plumage in accordance with age and season while humans make decisions — whether conscious or not — as to how they want to be perceived. Though my personal style isn’t very polished, I admire the purposefulness and skill with which people adapt and display themselves. I think it’s both important and fascinating to understand reasons behind human behavior and how our biology works with the rest of the natural world.
NAILS: About how long does it take you to make each peacock sculpture?
Roth: Between 300 and 400 hours.
NAILS: What are your favorite brands of nail polish to use?
Roth: Each nail is hand filed and painted with about three coats of color. There can easily be 2,000 to 3,000 nails in one sculpture, so expense is a big issue, as is color availability. I use a variety of brands but was especially happy to receive a generous donation of polish from OPI last year to help with a set of sculptures. They have great quality and color selection.
NAILS: Are the peacocks for sale?
Roth: They are for sale through my galleries: Frey Norris Contemporary and Modern in San Francisco, Schroeder Romero Shredder Gallery in New York, and Packer Schopf Gallery in Chicago. One sculpture, “Ripley’s Birds of Paradise,” is in a public collection and can be seen at the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum in Hollywood, Calif. “Plumage,” which was purchased last year by The Progressive Collection, is currently on view in Ohio at the Maltz Museum in a show titled, “About the Right to Be Different.”
To view more of Roth’s peacock series or for more information, visit www.loloro.com.