The apple of her eye

Local artist Donna Pardue doesn’t just eat apples – she sculpts them, too. Her esculent sculptures have been showcased at a variety of art exhibits around Texas. That Other Paper’s Michael Williams visited with Donna Pardue at her home, which, nestled away in a thicket of enchanting foliage and mystical ponds, allows only the most perceptive Girl Scout/pizza man to locate the front door. Lucky for me, I was given explicit directions, which when scribbled on the back of an envelope, resemble a game you might find on the back of cereal box entitled “Find the Treasure” or “X Marks the Spot.”

photo / Michael Williams Donna Pardue 

That Other Paper When did you first start sculpting apples?

Donna Pardue About eight years ago. My first attempts didn’t turn out too well. The apples rotted, so I abandoned it for a while. A few years later I tried doing it again and this time I was able to figure out a way to dry them. I don’t really use any special technology, but if the weather is too humid it’s not a good idea to carve them.

TOP What was your inspiration for choosing apples? That’s an interesting medium.

DP I’ve seen little doll heads made out of apples before, so I knew it was possible. The association between Eve and an apple just occurred to me one day. The female torso was the first one I did. It’s called Adam Ate Most of It. I consider the apple the archetypal fruit. It’s a microcosm of aging. Like vanitas, a painting style that represents the fleeting of time, apples also symbolize a fading of youth and beauty.

TOP Granny Smith vs. Red Delicious: Which apple would win a beauty contest or a battle to the death?

DP Granny Smith. Even though it’s a granny. I sculpt Granny Smith Apples.

TOP Why Granny Smith?

DP They are the largest and most durable apples I have been able to find. They need to be crisp. I used Red Delicious apples during my first few attempts, but they got too mushy.

photo / Michael Williams 

TOP Good to know. What kind of preparation does apple-sculpting entail? How long do you usually spend on creating a piece?

DP I just peel the apple and then take a kitchen knife to cut and obtain the desired size. I use an exacto knife to create the detail. I would say I spend about an hour on most of the pieces, but depending on the detail I could spend two or three hours on a certain piece. After about an hour some carvings, like The Ears of the Sundry Gods, begin to feel flesh-like. The apples will begin to turn after an hour or so. The older they get, the drier and darker they become. Eventually they reach a static stage where you can keep them for several years.

TOP The Ears of the Sundry Gods is a 13-piece collection. What’s the story behind that?

DP On September 11, everyone in the world was horrified by what had happened. The tragedy seemed to involve some sort of religious motivation. I could just imagine millions of prayers from all over the world canceling each other out because they were all going to different gods. There’s a saying that God’s name is God, but if a man were praying and that man referred to God as “Dude,” God would know that man was French.

TOP And by his beret. Do you have a favorite piece that you would like to cryogenically freeze forever?

DP I really got interested in sculpting various hand gestures from around the world, including: Christ’s benediction and the Buddhist Abayha Mudra (Fearless) gesture. The Eye in Hand (a symbolic gesture for warding off evil) and Adam Ate Most of It are two of my favorite pieces. I also really love The Ears of the Sundry Gods. Hmmm. I guess I would freeze La Mano Poderosa (The Powerful Hand) because it’s so hard to cave. In each sculpture the youthful phase vanishes in just a short period of time.

TOP Mr. Potato Head is the only artistic medium involving food I have every used. Have you ever thought about trying another medium? Maybe a pear?

DP I’ve never really tried that. I’m pretty satisfied with the apple.

TOP Do you dabble with any other artistic media?

photo / Michael Williams 

DP I also enjoy flash animation, playing the accordion, and photography. Flash animation is one of my favorite mediums because you’re not starting with anything; you just grab bits and pieces of different things for your artistic creation. I’ve also been spending a lot of time in New Orleans photographing the Mardi Gras Indian gangs. These historically secret tribes have been around for over a century. Each year the members of each tribe create special suits, called masking, which are only worn twice a year. Each suit is adorned with a hundred plus pounds of beads and feathers. Originally the members of each tribe would meet under violent conditions but now the affair is peaceful. It’s really interesting and I can’t wait to go back.

TOP You state on your website that you draw inspiration from the Russian writer Vladimir Nabakov, who is quoted as stating, “Beauty plus pity.” What about that inspires you?

DP “Beauty plus pity” represents the idea that beauty must eventually die. That particular quote seems to sum up what art is about. Kafka’s A Hunger Artist was an inspiration for one of my pieces. In the story the main character grows emaciated by starving himself, which is his art form. It is the archetypal fruit, more than just an apple.


Anonymous's picture

Well holy shit. I never would have thought of that. Peanut butter is about as creative as I get with apples.

The apple ears are a little creepy though.

Sheila's picture

What a cool idea. Thanks!