Untitled (the Spider)

It’s not really about spiders, at all…

but the imagery of a seven-foot-long metal black widow often overpowers the real intent….

The spider piece is about fear: specifically fear of failure. If I have one phobia in my life, that’s it. I think that many people share this fear in one way or the other, but this piece was intended to be a meditation on how pervasive and irrational many of our fears can be.

Arachnophobia: a pathological fear or loathing of spiders.

I am at least mildly arachnophobic. That made working on this piece a bit of an extra challenge. It is for all intents and purposes (give or take some hairs and teeny-weeny bits) an anatomically correct seven foot long black widow spider. (Latrodectus Mactans) In order to get the parts right, I had to collect some specimens, and observe them closely. I bought about four different industrial-strength magnifying glasses, to no avail. Those mouth parts are small. Eventually, I bought a binocular dissecting microscope on Ebay, and went to town. My three specimens were named Edna, Gertrude, and Jolene. (unfortunately, spiders were harmed during the making of this sculpture- but you try to get a black widow in a jar to roll over and hold still..

I wanted part of the exercise here to be about facing our fears, and using a potent fear-object to illustrate how overpowering our fears can become. Arachnophobia is one of the most common and well known phobias in the world. A person suffering from severe arachnophobia can sometimes be overpowered by their fear of spiders. Sometimes, even a drawing of a spider or an object that resembles a spider can trigger a panic attack in especially acute cases. Approximately fifty percent of women and ten percent of men (in the west) are said to suffer from at least mild arachnophobia. I wanted to take that fear, and apply it to something else, to juxtapose an instinctive, irrational phobia with a learned, yet still pervasive common fear that many of us share. I use the spider as a symbol, a fear vector, and replace the hourglass on its abdomen with a mottled dollar sign ($) on its back, to symbolize a fear of financial failure.

Anyone who has been poor, or taken on a large personal endeavor with a small budget, knows the gnawing fear of failure that can live in the back of your mind. For me, fear of failure is a lot like crawling through the attic, knowing that there are spiders in there with you, spiders you don’t necessarily see. I remember when I was a kid, being tasked with tidying up the woodpile, and seeing a black widow crawl across the tip of my finger. She didn’t bite me, and she was just trying to escape, as I was tossing her house into another neighborhood, but it made me overly cautious about finishing my task. My caution made my work slower, and soon, it was getting dark. In the twilight, I started seeing spiders in every little nook and cranny of every log I touched. The fear had taken over, and it was controlling me. It seems to me that an imaginary fear, one that is conceived of, but not experienced, can be more powerful than a direct, tangible challenge.

Fear of failure (and I imagine, especially recently, many people feel it) is like that. It exists in your mind, primarily. When faced with a direct challenge, many of us are pretty good at lateral thinking, and pro-actively attacking the source of the problem. But a phobia is different. The challenge is imaginary, irrational, yet very powerful. It is within you, so it cannot be faced head-on, the way other obstacles are met. It constantly gnaws at your confidence, lulling you into a frozen stasis, trying to paralyze you. We are at our best when we have a monster to fight, but the lurking fear of an unseen monster can be more powerful than the thing itself. This piece is an attempt to illustrate that concept, to put a face on the monster, and allow us to imagine facing it.

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3 Responses to “Untitled (the Spider)”

  1. Jeremiah Says:

    This is pretty awesome. Great work. I hope to one day be able to afford to have this kind of stuff in my home.

  2. Kym is Awesome Says:

    Oh Edna, you terrifying little bitch. That still gives me the creeps.

  3. Esme Says:

    I was blown away by the beauty of your sculptures – am very interested in the price range as I would love to own one of these spiders in the near future. I believe everyone of your sculptures is a masterpiece and have great respect for an artist like you.

    Will be great to hear from you soon.

    Esme (south africa)

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