Anonymous artist populates campus with strange clay figures

For those who have been on campus this semester, you may have noticed a number of roughly half-inch-tall colored clay figurines hidden in odd places. Some might be found on a bookshelf, others on top of a picture frame, and some even dangling from doorways. These are the mysterious works of an artistic vigilante of sorts; like a crochet bomber or a Banksy impersonator. The Echo has learned the identity of the artist (we will refer to him by his psudonym “Creature Man” for the rest of this article) and talked with him recently about his process, inspiration and reason for creating his small figurines.

As for what they’re made of, Creature Man explains that he uses a plastic polymer called Sculpey Clay. He says, “I like it because it’s soft, not very sticky, comes in many colors that can easily be mixed, and bakes hard in the oven at temperatures low enough not to damage any wood, string, paper, etc. that I might want to incorporate into the piece.” His process, he explains, is largely improvisational. Instead of coming up with a clear plan and sticking to it, he develops each figure as he goes. For those who have been lucky enough to come across his creations, you will recognize the quirky, mutant-like forms, and their varied physical attributes. “I set out trying to make each one as different from the others as possible. I incorporated strings and magnets into a few of them so that I could place them in even more unexpected places,” he said.

Each creature could take anywhere from 3 to 20 minutes, he explains. As for the number of figurines he’s created, that seems to be a mystery even to him. “I’ve already lost count, but I can say with confidence that I hid over 60,” he says. “I have even more in my room, but I haven’t decided what to do with them.”

Although Creature Man says that the ideas for his figurines vary and come to him naturally, the purpose for each one seems to be the same. He says, “This series of sculptures is meant to be a combination of art instillation, Easter-egg hunt, and practical joke. The idea is that a few people will start seeing them wherever they go throughout the day, and wonder where the hell they came from.” He continues, “ideally most of them will get adopted and find loving homes, but I know that more than a couple will end up in the trash or crushed. Some of them are cute, and others are just downright bizarre, but hopefully they make people feel like they have found a little bit of unexpected treasure.”

The figures are indeed bizarre, but the detail in each one as well as the sheer quantity around campus make the series no small feat. Creature Man’s background in art has certainly informed the level of precision he is able to achieve. He explains that he took several classes in sculpture and studio art before college, and a drawing class since being at Colby. His experience with Sculpey Clay, on the other hand, goes much further back: “I have been playing with Sculpey Clay non-stop since the 5th grade,” he explained. “It’s incredibly therapeutic and I recommend it highly for anyone who is feeling stressed.”

When asked about the thanklessness that comes with anonymity, Creature Man says, “It’s not about me. I’d like to maintain the illusion that these figures just kind of appear places; the less sense it makes, the better.” Ultimately for the artist, the purpose of the clay figures seems to be much more about the community experience than anything else: “I hope to make walking around campus a little more interesting,” he said. “I think life would be more fun if every once in a while over the course of our day we each found a little dinosaur or a gnome or worm dressed as a bank robber. Maybe people will start collecting them. Maybe strangers will bond over the mutual experience of finding some strange monster in a stairwell or on top of a computer.”

Creature Man didn’t reveal any big plans for the future, but we can at least hope to continue to discover his small, colorful contributions to campus.

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