Sophy Naess

Picture of Clocks (SOAP), 2014
Series of 8, 81/2” x 11”


PUSH/PULL Series 2 1-8

I started working with soap during a time of instability.

After finishing graduate school I spent the summer traveling in Europe and doing a printmaking residency in Venice, then a rural residency in upstate New York. I had seen a series of "Picture Clock" paintings at the Clock Museum in Vienna which captured my fancy.

I have always painted from nature, and while upstate I collected many of the classic subjects of vanitas paintings, like the snail, slug, flower, coin. I created a large series of oil paintings of these subjects as I watched the season change.

When I returned to New York I took up temporary, illegal residence in a studio I was renting from friends. I had no shower, and savored every opportunity to bathe. I was invited to show the paintings I'd made over the summer in an exhibition about the legacy of Hans Hofmann.

I thought about Hofmann's obsession with the "PUSH/PULL" dialectic. I wanted to update and personalize it. I began making soaps in response to his writings, and also to his paintings. My soaps were paintings capable of transforming the relationship between a body and its surrounding environment; they invited smell and touch and they were more or less fugitive, aging as time passed; a kind of picture clock. I enjoyed working with a palette of fragrances, and often took my soap experiments to the YMCA where they enhanced my showering experience. All the color in them is cosmetic pigment, body safe. It was a pleasure to work with, easy to wash off.

I conceived my first series of soap tablets as a sort of book, and prepared a text to wrap them in. It was based on Dr. Bronner's hysterical soap labeling and incorporated the writing of Hofmann, myself, and the art historian Griselda Pollock.