Artist Sarah Bradley
The big white jackrabbit inside Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return may not be an oversized man-eater like the ones in Night of the Lepus, the 1972 cult- classic horror film about mutant rabbits. Nevertheless, this rabbit, carved into the entrance of one of the many caves in the exhibit, is an imposing presence. It is the creation of artist and longtime Meow Wolf collaborator Sarah Bradley, who also made several smaller animal and animalistic hybrid forms for the show. Masks, sculptures, imaginative figurines, and installation work form the bulk of Bradley’s artistic practice. She lived together with members of the art collective before becoming involved in the Meow Wolf-produced play The Moon Is to Live On in 2010. “I did a bunch of costumes for that,” Bradley told Pasatiempo. “Then I worked on Habitats and The Due Return, which was the ship.” Habitats, also produced in 2010, was a multilevel interactive installation. For The Due Return, a full-scale sailing vessel built on site at the Center for Contemporary Arts in 2011, Bradley carved an elaborate winged figurehead. House of Eternal Return takes some ideas from previous Meow Wolf projects and elaborates on them. The installation bears some similarities to the steampunk, fantasy aesthetic that informs much of the collective’s earlier work. “After The Due Return, I took a break for a couple of years and got pulled back in for this,” she said.
Beyond the intimidating jackrabbit, through the mouth of the cave above which his monumental head rests, lies a small, self-contained room lit up in neon. “It’s a stripped- down space. It’s not a super-involved interior. The rabbit didn’t come from any part of the narrative in my mind; it just came from my head.” Bradley’s intention was to fill the room and interact with it. The rabbit’s ears, for instance, wrap around the existing ductwork in the ceiling. “I really like working with animal forms,” she said.
Bradley, a sculptor, costumer, and writer, lives in Santa Fe. In addition to Meow Wolf projects, she has designed costumes for children’s theater and for student films. She combines costuming and sculpture in her studio work on small human/animal hybrid figures, and some of the fantasy creatures you’ll encounter in House of Eternal Return are her creation. They were made using a durable lightweight building compound called Skratch. Bradley was new to Skratch, the favored material for large-scale sculpting at the art complex, when she began working with it last spring. “I think it was in April or May of 2015. I’ve been working with it throughout this entire project, and I’ve made about 60 miniature sculptures with it. I made all the fish in the aquarium. I made a number of creatures that are touch interactives; you lay your hand on them and they make sounds. Skratch has been primarily what I’ve been using. This sculpture in particular has a pretty heavy-duty armature that’s made from a bunch of different materials, including wood, foam, steel, and lath.”
Unlike many of the architectural and sculptural components that make up the large- scale installation, Bradley’s rabbit is not painted. At least the natural off-white color of the rabbit’s Skratch-formed head has been left untouched. “I’m not a big color person,” Bradley said. “There’s a lot of people in this collective that do phenomenal work with color, but it’s not my strong point. There’s a lot of overloaded, oversaturated color in this show, so I decided to go for a starker look.”
The rabbit’s eyes, however, light up and were created using a different form of sculpting medium. “They’re made out of InstaMorph, which is a moldable plastic. I really love it, especially for eyes. When you turn the work lights off, the eyes have a beautiful glow to them, and they end up kind of looking like the moon. I wanted to do something that was big, that was intimidating, yet not, at the same time. It’s an amalgam of ideas that came together. It’s not particularly conceptual. It’s more about trying to capture a certain feel.”