FOR THE WEEK of International Women’s Day, we have chosen Saelia Aparicio’s ‘Lizzo’ as our Object of the Week. This stool, constructed from CNC birch plywood, a cut-out cube without nails or glue, painted with dye and Chinese ink, represents a naked seated woman hugging her knees and holding her head – as if she were preparing for the world to collapse on her shoulders. Her position is strong, both geometrically and psychologically. She is not looking outwards, but inwards, for the strength to bear whatever comes. The space she hugs beneath her is safe. She has rainbow-coloured nail varnish – a splash of humour and defiance – and a single inked tattoo.
‘Lizzo’ forms part of a series of anthropomorphic stools that sculptor Aparicio has created for Gallery FUMI, all based on women. They owe their origins to Aparicio’s solo show, ‘Your Consequences Have Actions’, at The Tetley Art Gallery in Leeds in 2017. The Spanish-born, London-based, multimedia artist – who graduated from the Royal College of Art in London in 2015 – introduced the stools throughout the exhibition space, so that visitors contemplating her multi-room mural or watching her films, could sit. The stools, created in collaboration with Aparicio’s younger sister, are each based upon a unique, actual human being.
The human body is a primary inspiration for Aparicio, whose father was a pathologist. The artist reports that during her childhood there were always jars of body parts in formaldehyde in the home. For Aparicio, the body is both a source of wonder and horror – simultaneously a mask, a costume to be worn and an ever-changing form shaped by ageing, the environment and disease. Her vision is balanced by a sense of the resilience and humour of human beings, and an aesthetic inspired by comic books and manga.
‘Lizzo’ also is named after a real person. She was the inspiration behind the installation ‘American Dream’ that Aparicio created for FUMI’s presentation at Design Miami in December: a series of anthropomorphic stools representing friends of the artist from different ethnic backgrounds in the United States. For Aparicio “the works embody the ideals of liberty, equality, empowerment, and freedom of self-expression in a country also defined by colonialism and cultural erasure.” She says of the model for ‘Lizzo’: “She is an American musical artist and a political, social and body positivity activist.” The tattoo, she explains, “is based on a character I made in 2016, ‘multi woman’, a superwoman made from parts of other women of all sizes and ethnicities, her superpower is to make everyone inclusive.”
‘Lizzo’s’ bright finger and toenails are inspired by a speech her real-life counterpart made. Aparicio quotes: ‘“When it comes to sexuality or gender, I personally don’t ascribe to just one thing. I cannot sit here right now and tell you I’m just one thing,” she said. “That’s why the colours for LGBTQ+ are a rainbow! Because there’s a spectrum, and right now we try to keep it black and white. That’s just not working for me.”’ So anyone may sit on this stool and feel supported by it.
Anthropomorphic Stools by Saelia Aparicio at Gallery FUMI