“I really enjoy the absurd,” says Atlanta-based sculptor Nikki Starz. “I find a lot of these bizarre moments in my life and in the way that I interact with the world, and that really becomes a huge part of how I build things and what I choose to make.” Ironic, then, that her first job after graduating would be constructing natural history exhibits and museum artifacts. But in her own work, it's her ability to combine the remarkably realistic design and detail necessary for artifacts with allegorical (and often absurd) concepts that’s garnering her fans.
Location: San Francisco
Case in point? The artwork she created for Dolby®. Ears is a wall made up of 600 plastic ears painted shades of pink, purple, and cyan. A seemingly simple project, the castings proved difficult: “The forms themselves are terribly complex. The way that liquid travels into the mold, there’s so much room for error, even in the way that you’re pouring the material itself,” Starz explains. But she revels in the process— experimenting with material viscosity, physically shaping objects, embracing trial and error. The result is certainly striking, and true to Starz’s method of operation, there’s more than meets the eye, er, the ear. It’s a “pop-art homage” to the people at Dolby, in Starz’s words. “From what I understand, there are people that have superior hearing at Dolby. It is part of their job.… Getting to create this visual manifestation of how they experience the world and how they work within Dolby has been incredible."
A wall of ears can evoke different emotions from viewers, potentially forcing you to consider the organ in a different way than you have before, and that’s the point. It’s even made Starz look at ears differently now. “I find myself wanting to touch other people’s ears.”