I remember watching my mother’s hands rub oil across the surface of dough, it’s body slowly swelling from the warmth. I learned from the way the skin stretched across her knuckles when she squeezed whey from the gathering curds. The labor and tenderness in daily tasks, such as these, passed from her body to mine. Each touch a soft, calloused search for our own edges.
Through my work, I grapple with how it feels to inhabit our bodies, these every-shifting forms. Exploring the ways they hold together all the mushy, heavy, fragile pieces, at times so vulnerable and yet, strong enough to bear our weight. In the studio, I draw on the domestic skills my mother taught me. The bodies I craft bulge, grow and break down. Their holes and orifices slowly release and leak onto the floor. Their taut skin stretches and pulls; leaving soft lines that mark the path.
The bodily forms and processes in my work draw on the often-gendered experiences of weeping, urination, menstruation, abortion and pregnancy. The way these moments shift our seemingly solid edges and reveal our porous boundaries. They remind us that we are dying, changing, decaying vessels, loosely contained by skin, muscle, and bone.
Three Bread Bodies rest on the floor, each testifying to earlier moments in their existence. Strips of muslin cloth were sewn around yeasted dough. While proving and baking, the breads rose and expanded against their cloth restraints, in places forcing the sewn threads to break and expose the dough underneath. This process is now inscribed into their bodies, the baked forms shaped by the muslin’s give and take, highlighting where the breads escaped their confines. Yet as these sculptures rest in the gallery, the bread bodies begin to dry and crack. Against the glimpses of breaking crust, the muslin’s threads now adopt a new purpose—stitches holding the bodies together against their natural decay.
Through collaboration with and manipulation of domestic materials, Nalani Stolz’s practice highlights the porous boundaries of the human form. With a thoughtful consideration of process, Stolz’s sculptural works are made with skill sets passed down through her maternal line: baking, candle-making, weaving. Her works hold traces of these processes, yet play against one’s expectations of domestic production. In Viscera, for example, long cylindrical sculptures drape down from suspended strips of cloth, resembling intestines unfurled and laid bare outside the body. Water condensates inside each tube, periodically emitting droplets that fall to the floor. Change equally marks their form; these sculptures are made from wax, revealing residual fingerprints and seams from the artist’s hand-molding, as well as the presence of small hairs and dust particles picked up from the surrounding space.
Stolz’s objects and installations not only enact bodily processes (expanding, leaking, decaying), but appear as bodies themselves constantly changing, going against the commonly perceived stasis of the gallery. In creating evocative objects with an inherently familiar materiality, Stolz asks the viewer to confront their own internal materiality—the mundane and miraculous ways that the human body leaks, grows, and changes.