The interplay between nature and artist. The unpredictability of form and placement. Their ephemerality and outstanding beauty. These are some of the reasons why I’m enthralled by fungi and thus seeking to entwine it with art and sculpture. Here is a preliminary study of growing living pink oyster mushrooms from a hollow cast. This strain, Pleurotus djamor, not only looks incredible but tastes even more so.
Daphne’s Arm, 2021, cultured marble, 35cm
The Greek myth of the god Apollo chasing the river-nymph Daphne — until she ultimately transforms into a laurel tree — has been told through literature and art across millennia. This arm sculpture is an anatomy study, yet also a first attempt at creating an art piece around that same ancient story. For now, it represents the microsecond before she turns into the laurel tree, as she reaches away to the sky.
Teonanácatl, 2020, quartz/volcanic ash, 26cm
My fascination with fungi finds its roots in ancient history, archeology, and the relationship between psychedelics and spirituality. Mushroom stone artifacts have been discovered in highland Guatemala dating back 2.000+ years, depicting animals and effigies in mushroom shapes. Belonging to the early Maya, they are the strongest evidence to suggest the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms within Mesoamerican cultures. This sculpture is my rendition of an original piece currently exhibiting at the Rietberg Museum, Zurich.
Slava, 2022, clay, portrait from life.
Done during an intensive workshop at Alexandra Slava's atelier. In a world of NFTs, my love for physical clay seems to be deepening. Clay is like drawing on paper, but with an extra 3rd dimension. It’s a stroke of light and a stroke of shadow. Thanks to the beautiful model who kindly froze in space for us every day.
Untitled, 2021, cast mycelium (Ganoderma lingzhi)
A large part of my work involves researching biodegradable materials. For example, the growth patterns of mycelium — the underground web- like structure of fungi — can be guided in such a way that one can “grow” different shapes. I choose to develop this process into the formation of sculptures. Mycelium acts as a natural polymer, bonding the substrate in which it grows together. The material can come from agricultural waste such as sawdust, rice bran, or used coffee grounds, ultimately creating a new lightweight, fireproof, and 100% organic living material.
Contaminated agar, 2020, petri dish
Microbiology has guided me to the realization that the world we experience is an assembly of layers. From the cosmos to the human to the micro, each layer is an intricate, complex world of its own. This image depicts a cherished accident. An agar petri dish originally intended to isolate mushroom cultures became contaminated by airborne bacteria, creating these random yet sublime organic patterns.
We Are Our Mountains, 2020, oil-based clay, 25cm
During an armed conflict in Artsakh (South Caucasus region), I felt compelled to create a sculpture based on the monument, We Are Our Mountains. The humanitarian project, Artsakh Letters, was an art fundraiser inviting everyone to contribute messages of peace which I would burn and use the ashes in the material when casting the piece into stone. This allowed the sentiments of peace to be immortalised in the sculpture. This video details the process: https://youtu.be/XUK_LDHQzG4
Mushroom Stone, 2020, cast stone (left/right), cast mycelium (center), 25cm
The first mushroom stone sculpture I brought to life, the psychedelic toad, was inspired by the original piece, carved by the ancient Maya. It is possible to speculate that the Maya not only used hallucinogenic mushrooms in their spiritual practice, but were also familiar with the Sonoran Desert toad, a toad which produces 5-MeO-DMT. I experimented with various materials, eventually settling on quartz and volcanic ash, however, I casted the middle piece in mushroom mycelium, which, by the time of this picture, was alive and growing fruiting bodies.
Non-Fungible Fungi / NFT, 2021, 1080x1080px
My first exploration into the world of 3D, CGI and Blockchain, as well as my first attempt at combining those with living fungi. In this project, I tried to capture the spirit of the Reishi mushroom, which I grew myself, and 3d scanned in my studio. The collection titled: “Non-Fungible Fungi”, includes an original music composition by pianist Enrico Podovani, and it was minted on the Tezos blockchain via hicetnunc.xyz Direct link https://www.hicetnunc.xyz/alexandermain/creations
These are all my fails, 2021, private installation, Berlin Art Week
The most personal and meaningful art piece I’ve produced so far. An installation of 75 Maya mushroom stone sculptures I made over the span of 2 years. I welcomed over 120 friends and friends of friends to a private viewing in my own home, to share María Sabina’s story, my story, and my vision.