Something that has been missing from the mantis work is some sort of narrative or history. I’ve struggled with effective ways of communicating one. In the past I’ve flirted with the idea using of text, video vignettes, and illustrative stills. However all would be ultimately lacking by using story telling methods to usual for subject matter which could lead to the wrong kind of associations.
Bas-reliefs have long appealed to me as solution and would allow me to further reference works of literature that I want to rely on (particularly At The Mountains of Madness). However my sculpting skill is remedial at best. While I could try to rely on mimicry of Clark Ashton Smith’s simple and primitive sculptures which reference his and HP Lovecraft’s work it is stylistically dull and clumsy. After some thought and exploration it occurred to me I could use CNC or laser etching to create the necessary reliefs from drawings. Again though came the hurdle of ability of drawing and rendering. After further work I came up with the solution of generating reliefs from photographs.
To create the relief I posed the mantis flat and allowed it to set in that position. Then I applied a matte light gray paint to remove tonal variation not related to luminosity. Then (and this is the part I’m proud of figuring out) I scanned it. Depth maps for CNC and laser etching are light/dark based. The darker the area the deeper it engraves. A scanogram of gray a subject will automatically generate a depth map for me. With some post processing a suitable depth map is created (top image). The initial engraving results are quite promising. There is some needed refinement and then a much needed stylistic development but this medium should allow me to effectively communicat a needed narrative without breaking the underlying feel of artifacts that the work is supposed to evoke.