- Kate MacDowell, Entangled, porcelain, 2010
Though love affairs between the 8-limbed are less easily engineered than this sculpture suggests, the metaphor of tangling tempts. In reality, the male octopus must insert a specialized arm (usually the third arm on the right, rather than the third on the left, where he wears his wedding ring) beneath the female’s mantle, insert sperm through his tentacle tip, and depart at speed to avoid being mauled. Later, the female lays about 200,000 eggs, and hangs them like strands of pearls from the roof of her cave, where she blows on them gently to make sure they are properly oxygenated. She doesn’t hunt while watching over her eggs, and if there is no food in proximity, she will eat her own arms.
Mating for the octopus is not an embrace of willing limbs, but more kinbaku. Arms as ropes.
Who can resist it, though, the notion of arms enough to hold the beloved, arms enough to grasp everything?
Kate MacDowell’s porcelain pieces - of which this is only one of my many favorites - paralyze the process of decay. A human heart emerges from its bonecage and finds a love of its own. In combination with the octopus tentacles, we arrive at two cephalopodic hearts, which can change shape and press themselves into places they don’t fit, hearts which can camouflage and collapse and slip through small passageways.
Immensely appealing, perhaps because the possibility of impossible escape has, throughout human history, always been seductive. We fall madly in love with our escapologists.
These are escapologist hearts, tangling willingly.
See also, Figs