Birch Corset by Catherine Latson
Birch Corset photo by Luis Paredes.
“It was like painting with wood.” – Catherine Latson, sculptor.
Wall paper patterns made from beetles and cicadas, an enchanted miniature landscape locked in a wall, and pastel paintings of lush flowers emerging from darkness. These were a few of the sights at the Hudson River Museum’s Neo-Victorian exhibit that left a huge impression.
But one exhibit, in my opinion, stole the show – a corset sculpture made from birch wood by artist and sculptor, Catherine Latson.
It was magical. I found myself losing all sense of time admiring its intricate construction and enjoying a sense of calm. Since then, I’ve wanted to share to share my Art of Lingerie experience with the Lingerie Journal’s readers with images and wonderful interview with Catherine about her creation – Birch Corset.
Q&A with Catherine Latson
Catherine, we would love to know the inspiration behind the creation of Birch Corset.
Birch Corset is part of the Garment series from a few years back. The series (as I say in my statement) offered an unconventional take on the art and engineering of self decoration. Clothing is a universal experience. I wanted to turn that experience on its head by offering whimsical and improbable reinventions of the packages we put ourselves in using natural, found, and repurposed materials.
The inspiration for Birch Corset came out of nowhere. I stumbled upon a box of left over birch veneer and started playing. I had been building sculptural abstractions of corsets for a while. Corsets are beautiful, tortuous contraptions. The artistry of the Victorian era was stunning: hand stitching, whale bone stays, beading, minuscule buttons, snaps and hooks. Getting dressed was a chore.
Birch Corset: Beauty in Contradictions
Corsets area also a contradiction. They are rigid and controlled in structure, but soft and curvaceous in form. It was the same contradiction with birch veneer. It’s hard and linear, yet when wrapped and twisted, allowed graceful, round forms. It was like painting with wood. I ran with it.
Research was minimal and involved breezing through photos of corsets through the ages with an occasional dip into technical construction. I didn’t want to over think anything. I paid no mind to brands. I was focused on silhouette, structure, details, and palettes.
“I would love viewers to walk away wishing they could put it on.”
We’d love to know more about the materials used. Could you tell us a little bit about why birch, tapioca wood and vintage remnants were used.
Tapioca root (sola wood) and vintage remnants were used on the interior of the piece to not only camouflage the bulky engineering of all that veneer but to create a surprising contradiction to the rigid exterior. I guess you could call it a nod to the soft, intimate side of corsetry and lingerie.
We have to ask, is your creation wearable?
Birch Corset is, sadly, not wearable. It is purely sculptural. I would love to make another that IS wearable. (That might involve a few hinges.) A number of my larger gowns are wearable. I have had models and dancers try them on and did a photo shoot with the Marigold gown. You can’t do much once you are in them, but they come alive.
What do you want viewers to walk away feeling once they experienced Birch Corset?
The take away: I don’t dwell on this too much. I guess I hope viewers enjoy the unexpected, whimsical side of the work, but also be able to fantasize about the missing inhabitant, the story. I would love viewers to walk away wishing they could put it on.
Where can our readers expect to see Birch Corset next? And do you have plans to create any other lingerie inspired pieces?
Where will Birch Corset be next? Not sure! Since returning from the Hudson River Museum, it is packed up and stored in the studio. Would love to find her a home!
I have ideas for future corsetry and gowns bouncing around in my head all the time. Presently, however, I’m engrossed in a new series, the Specimens, which is inspired by sea anemones and the motion of a water-bound world. It blurs the lines between plant and animal, realism and fantasy, sculpture and specimen.
For anyone that wants to learn more about you and your work, where can we point them to?