Tales from a Citrus Swamp…

Or: the History of the Bog Orange

First, an admission: I have a habit of drawing faces on things. Some might call it an annoying habit, as it sometimes takes the form of drawing faces on unattended items belonging to others, which usually entails their food. Take the following picture as a small example:

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One of the main places that this could happen was at work. Coworkers tended to leave things unattended near me all the time, and if these items had any kind of a surface that would lend itself to having a face, it usually got one. This would include Coffee to-go cups, paper bags from fast food or convenient stores, tampons (true story….I got one of my many “talkings to” for that) and fruits.

Oranges tended to be one of my favorite items, I suppose due to their having a rounded, lumpy head-like shapes that in many ways mimicked the drawings that I already do.

A few years ago I drew one of these (what has since become known as “Mort” faces) on the unattended orange of my co-worker Sam, who worked with me in the basement of the art store. He dug it so much that he put it on his shelf of items on his desk, refusing to peel it and eat it. I’m guessing that the original idea was to throw it away eventually, when it would start to rot….but that never happened. Instead, the orange slowly shrunk down and mummified in the dry Colorado air in this basement. The peel became a rock solid skin, and you could feel that the insides had basically dehydrated to nothingness, leaving the orange hollow and petrified.

Sam brought a bag of oranges in to work one day, specifically for me to draw on. using sharpies and paint markers, I created near a dozen more….and we put them away on a shelf, and watched over the next several months as they too shrunk and mummified.A few other coworkers and several friends, it turned out, loved these little guys and I ended up giving most of them away as gifts.

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Not long after that, I found myself looking through the oranges in a produce store, trying to pick several of the best candidates for the next batch. This group I took home to my studio and put aside, deciding to draw the faces AFTER the mummifying. While I’m sure there is a much quicker way to desiccate an orange or, for that matter, a group of oranges, I don’t know it. Plus, there is something satisfying in watching them slowly shrink and tan over the weeks and months.

While this was happening I had started to take up sculpting little creatures out of clay and resin (more on that in a later post), and eventually (you can see where this is headed) I wondered if it possible to sculpt on the dried orange husks themselves….

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…..and as you can see from the previous photo, it turns out that it is!

So, along with the other projects that I was sculpting, I included these new, what became known as “Bog Oranges”, as each orange became ready. Pictured below is the entire first set.

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