Master of Fine Arts student Cody Platt has loved the freedom and exploration of sculpture since he was a child. His latest exhibit, “Playpen,” explores sexuality and gender in relation to his body as a trans man.
Staff writer Robert McNeely spoke with Platt about his current artistic focus and his experience in the MFA program as a sculptor.
Daily Tar Heel: Tell me about your artistic focus.
Cody Platt: My medium primarily is sculpture. I like to work with a lot of found objects. I do a lot of dumpster diving for found materials. That’s usual where I start with finding forms and colors. I’m very textural and I get very excited about the way things feel and look. I really indulge in textures a lot, so that’s where I find what to work with. That can be plastics, fibers, wood, metal just kind of whatever my eyeball gets excited about.
In terms of my focus in subject, the show I just finished, “Playpen,” is referring to my own body and my relationship with how I exist — kind of trying to figure out how to celebrate the body I’m in, and also understanding self-loathing. Figuring out what is it about the pieces we exist as, and what’s so unsatisfied and curious to unravel about them.
DTH: What’s “Playpen” about? How did you design it?
CP: It’s kind of an arena. The whole border line of the wall is sectioned in with this fake picket fence, and all carpeted with these shitty dumpster dive things I’ve found. “Playpen” kind of exists in this dreamlike state where it’s sort of a landscape. You walk in and you’re engulfed by these things I call fish — which are all these weird hanging sculptures that are made from lots and lots of melted plastic on fish hooks.
Many of the structures in the space are very indulgent in detail, I think. For me, the space kind of becomes where I get to be as honest as I want with my relationship of existing in my body as a transgender man, which totally forms my existence and my relationship with the content.
DTH: How did you get started as an artist?
CP: Well, when I was a little kid I used to sneak into my dad’s workshop when he was at work, and I used to have this giant bag of Ronald McDonald plastic toys that I’d cut up on his band saw. I’d go up to my room to hot glue them and make little monsters and things out of different body parts. I think that’s where a lot of the excitement began. I started thinking I could really do art because I really just felt like I could play and got really excited by playing with things. There are no rules to playing, so I think that’s what made me very gung-ho about it all.
DTH: What do you hope people take away from your exhibit?
CP: It’s about the honesty and vulnerability. I want to put that kind of content out there and allow other people to access all the nitty-gritty stuff they feel about their own bodies and identity. I want them to figure out that one: It’s okay to have that ugliness that you feel. And that two: It’s human. It’s hard and scary, but that’s really our existence in the world. It’s a celebration of our personal identity and how we relate that to others.
DTH: How does this exhibit reflect your time in the MFA program? How has the program changed you?
CP: I think the exhibit reflects a lot of the dialogue I’ve had with faculty, as well as my amazing MFA colleagues who are fucking brilliant. It reflects the ongoing conversations in the studio and the classroom. I know that my practice has changed dramatically since getting here because of the challenges my peers have given me. I’ve learned more about how to be honest without relying on humor, and how I can pick language more directly to pull the audience in and deny them an exit route. To really have that conversation with them is harder than stuff that releases you from its content. The program’s definitely changed how I chew on my ideas and understand myself.
I think the most relevant thing I’ve learned is that it’s so important to enjoy what you’re doing. Anything that makes you happy really has to be in your life. Make that a priority. That’s the best thing I’ve learned.
DTH: What do you plan to do with your MFA after graduation?
CP: I really love teaching. It’s just something that makes me incredibly happy. I learn a lot from the students I teach. My game plan is to definitely keep on making artwork, and also teach anywhere I can. I think my love for it goes back to the idea of playing. You have to work, and chew and problem solve, and I just like watching the brains of my students tinker around with how to play and how to let themselves play. As adults, we really don’t give ourselves permission to do that, and it’s scary. It’s scary because that’s where all kinds of different disciplines and ways of existing need to interact. We need to play to understand each other and to really understand ourselves. Teaching is really my biggest goal.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.