An Army of Her Own

When all seems lost, there is always the quiet one, who sees and understands. The one who lends a helping hand without judging, the one who makes you dinners, the one who dries your tears or helps with the laundry. The one who picks you up when you are down and always has a good word for everyone.
Most of the time, these are the loneliest people.

“An Army of Her own” is an homage to all the unsung heroes who tackle depression on their own, while they watch over the others. Through this assemblage, I wanted to draw attention towards the fragile connections we form in a lifetime and towards the need of belonging. Our paths are intertwined and we leave footprints into each other’s lives. We are there for each other and we form armies of our own, in our quest for a meaningful existence.

“An Army of Her Own” – Reclaimed wood, resin, leaves, umbrella spikes and ink on Stonehenge paper © Akka Ballenger Constantin

Like many others of my artworks, “An Army of Her Own” is an interdisciplinary project; the sculpture responds to a homonymous poem I wrote. Translating the poem into a sculpture was a very difficult but rewarding task. This work was built on the idea of “it takes a village to bring up a child” and how this village is lost within the Western world. I wanted to realise an ensemble of abstract figurines which embodies the army of the unsung heroes who tackle depression on their own, while watching over the others.

The abstraction of the figures – the lack of facial features – makes for a collective anonymous. Anyone could be part of this army. I didn’t want to have a particular face, but rather the essence of kindness, hence the heart- shaped leaves encased in the resin and the suggested faces found in the reclaimed wood. I think the final result is a good reflection of the poem and of the initial idea.

This was an assessment for my sculpture class. I thoroughly enjoyed working with wood and I would welcome the opportunity to do more sculptures in the future. Wood has a lovely, organic feel and I like what I can achieve with it; how I can shape it and change it into something else. I love that it is easier to anchor than plaster.

Given the chance and ample time, I would love to redo this sculpture on a larger scale and re-work the concept from scratch. I loved finding the right shapes of wood for this particular project, but I would also welcome the opportunity of working with large pieces of timber and shape the bodies of each figurine. I would also use a different type of mould for the resin and try to insert metal rods through the moulds, at the time of pouring the resin, in order to make the joining process easier and give the entire project a better structural endurance. There were several technical aspects that I had to consider, such as:

–  finding the right type of screws and fixtures. I needed a particular type of screws to attach the wood bodies to the base, screws that were long enough to fix the bodies properly, but also thin enough that they won’t pierce the delicate areas and cause cracks in the wood.

– finding an adequate base. In the end I opted for a piece of thick plywood, which I painted with acrylics and black lava medium. – My main challenge however, was attaching the resin heads to the bodies. I had to use a very thin drill to make holes into the resin and it was quite a delicate task, as I didn’t want to damage the resin, which is transparent and shows any mark that would be out of place. The heads are fairly heavy and I had to think not only about aesthetics, but also about structural difficulties.  In the end I opted to use some reclaimed umbrella spikes. They were thin enough to fit through the fine holes, but also strong enough to uphold the weight.