San Francisco sculptor and visual artist Wei Li took 3-D photographs of professional models in tense, dramatic poses and rendered them in a computer program so she could make wooden molds for shaping the leather. She then painted and hand-sewed the pieces together and added bronze zipper handles styled after her own hand — her signature. She calls the resulting collection of bodily-shaped leather suitcases “Encased.”
Our bodies and suitcases are temporary and we treat them with a weird mix of reverence and cruelty. They’re delicate, but must be sturdy enough to withstand the casual damage of everyday use. When they’re beautiful, they inspire envy and wonder in others. But when they reveal too much — exposing underwear and other unmentionables — people see them as less valuable.
Noting her interest in fantasy, fetish and sensation, Li said, “I want people to feel instead of reason, to trust their own sensations and submit to their own fantasies. With this work, I encased the body inside these leather forms, but I believe the energy and sensuality of the body is freed. For me, it’s not so much about creating a beautiful end result. The magic is in the journey, in the transformation, in the constant conversation with my own body.”
The same could be said of our own bodies — the luggage carrying our souls — as we amass more experiences, change in appearance, and wear down over time.
Previously published February 28, 2015.