Isabella Pommells

Spinal Chord

Class of: 2027

Major: Integrated Design BFA

Medium: Sculpture

Faculty: Aviva Maya Shulem

Prompt: We as a community are being closed, and we are standing on the outside of their shells. We are asked to shelter in space available to us and stay within. A cell inside our body might have been invaded by a parasite manipulating our cell production within. Our inner world of thoughts and feelings has been invaded and impacted by new realities outside our bodies. This project investigates relationships between the inner world and the outer world. In our new daily reality, each of us experiences an inside and outside of spaces in entirely new ways. Physical spaces, we found a temporary home. In this project, students are tasked with developing a body part cover inspired by exoskeletons' anatomy, and it explores forms of protecting ourselves from their world. How is this shell a metaphor for our state of mind? Our emotions? Our physical being? Etc.

Although the spinal chord is an internal structure, I wanted to honor it externally, as an imperative piece of the human body. Consistently performing and often under appreciated, the spine supports us throughout our day; maintaining structure as we perform our everyday routines. An upward spiraling root, twisting and curving to the diverse contortions of our body; A hulking beam with limbs growing out from either side. The spine is powerful and imperative, dividing our body to create a harmonious balance of stillness and symmetry. With a spine, we are limitless—relying on the security and vitality that it spreads to the farthest corners of our bodies to get us through our most triumphant moments.

Design wise, I was mainly focused on capturing the raw qualities of the spine and human body. The linear aspect of the structure allows everything to be stripped away, leaving room for the main components of the piece to really shine. The bone-like texture of the individual vertebrae was created by wrapping layers of plaster cloth around aluminum foil. Once dried, the cloth creates a stiff surface allowing it to resemble that of something bone-like. I also decided to paint the entire structure an off-white color, opting for a more natural and realistic look. Lastly, I bound each bone with silver wire, purposefully leaving the weavings exposed to enhance the starkness of the entire piece. The creative aesthetic was further enhanced in the photoshoot; the nude body and the singular spine combining to create a marriage of intimacy and appreciation. The lack of color and anonymity of the model allows for the piece to emerge robust yet elegant, just like a real spine. Overall, I think this work is one of aspiration; administering an alternative interpretation of an everyday body part while retaining authenticity throughout.