When in Floam: Patty Spyrakos sculpts relief paintings using a kid’s science kit
The American artist first came across the gooey substance while on holiday with her kids. Here, she talks about the physicality of her work which is both therapeutic and, most of all, fun.
- Peach Doble
- 27 February 2020
The Chicago-based artist, Patty Spyrakos, moulds tactile artworks using adapted recipes of floam. That’s right – fluffy foam. Using this very specific, and very fun medium, the artist crafts 3D paintings from the ASMR-esque substance. The results however, have a more dusty texture, reminiscent of Haribo fried eggs combined with the dusty coatings of mini eggs.
First becoming interested in art as a child, thinking of it as a kind of “punk expression”, initially, Patty decided not to pursue the medium. “Maybe it was partially my Greek-American work ethic upbringing,” she ponders to It’s Nice That of this hesitation.
In turn, Patty is entirely self taught, deciding to study psychology at university. Later, she went on to study herbalism and traditional Chinese medicine, teaching herself digital software on the side. She spent many years subsequently working in the design sector which led her to the medium of painting. Taking it up in her spare time, Patty was encourage by her artist husband to embrace the style that would make us so intrigued today.
Quickly taking to the process, she soon quit her job and went onto take up ceramics classes. It led her work to become more sculptural. Patty goes on to explain: “The idea of not knowing what’s going to come out of [that] is exhilarating,” and just like that, she was hooked.
Floam made its way into Patty’s practice just a few months ago, while playing with her daughters on holiday in Iceland. Used to working with clay, she became fascinated with the material because of its ease, not to mention its context within kids' education. “It’s basically just slime with beads,” she tells us.
To make this gooey substance, Patty first uses “different types of glue, boric acid, polyvinyl alcohol, polystyrene beads and paints in different combinations” in order to “achieve different consistencies of floam.” After this, the artist then has to knead and mix the floam-like dough until the perfect bond takes hold, which she then leaves to dry.
Utilising the floam in both paintings and sculptures, Patty uses different techniques during its application. For instance, “sometimes I’ll let it ooze or playfully sculpt it to see where the shape takes me,” she explains, “but for the works on canvas, I’m more methodical.” As parts of her practice are left solely to chance, occasionally, she’ll even read a tarot card for help. “There’s just a whole lot of navigating existential frustration and seeing what comes out,” she says on the topic.
Despite these two methods of making, it’s always Patty’s hands which do the talking. “I gravitate towards wanting to use more of my body in the process,” she goes on. Working with an emphasis on physicality is therapeutic for the artist, aiding her in a personal sense with anxiety and depression, and in turn, the process becomes a form of mindfulness in itself.
Having recently exhibited in the group show, I Saw You Post About It at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles, next up for Patty is another group show, No Ceilings. Taking place in Chicago, the exhibition takes place in the studio of an art collective fostering community and creativity in the American city. Another two-person show is on the horizon too, this time in Reykjavik. Held at Baldur Helgason at Gallery Port, viewers can expect more of Patty’s 2D and 3D pieces, reflecting “the Icelandic people and culture through the lens of an outsider.”