I’m not ready to take my clothes off. Perched on the toilet seat in artist Dana Hollish’s Dupont Circle bathroom, I nod, fidget, and sniff myself to check my pH balance. Hollish is an artist who molds and casts body parts, and on this Wednesday night I am her model. Hollish ignores me and gets down to the business of selecting plaster to mold my penis.
Are we really going to do my dick? I don’t think I can keep erect squatting in a pool of plaster for 15 minutes. I don’t have to worry—Hollish is nervous too. Instead, we opt for the safer butt mold. She pours hot water into what looks like a turkey-size aluminum roasting pan of Vatican Art Stone. The baking-sodalike powder turns into a gray slurry in the pan. “Disrobe, baby,” she coos.
I make a very unmacho ass-first splash. Slipping and sliding in the grit, I balance my lumpy torso and knocking knees in a reclining, suspended fetal position. I’m not allowed to touch the bottom. I stare at my dick; my dick stares at me. I want to fart. After a few silent minutes, Hollish notices a problem. “It’s not getting hard,” she says, breathing in my ear. “There’s too much water.”
I don’t know what she’s talking about—I’m naked. Apparently my butt is too tiny, and the mixture is not gelling fast enough. Hollish dashes away and soon is putting ice cubes around me as if they’re a garnish. “We might have to take some water out,” she offers, before recalling her own experience: “I have a much bigger ass than I thought I did when I did it.”
Hollish’s art involves a lot of trial and error. She spends most mornings experimenting with different plasters, shapes, and positions. During the past six months, she has made 10 butt molds and more than 100 boobs, trying out various mixtures (plaster of Paris burns!; latex stretches and cracks). Her most successful attempts have been with gelatin and Vatican. At a recent State of the Union exhibition, she showed Take a Bite Out of Crime, which featured two cherry gelatin replicas of her ass, one of which people ate—without utensils.
She has also shown a latex cast of one of her breasts titled Little Moe, as well as the multitit Turkish Delight, composed of friends’ mammaries memorialized in wild cherry Jell-O and sprinkled with powered sugar.
Hollish has never heard of groupie sculptress Cynthia Plastercaster or the Kiss song (“Plaster Caster”) that honored her. Unlike that genital-casting pioneer, whose work included infamous molds of Jimi Hendrix’s cock—as well as those of “smaller” rock stars—Hollish values her medium for its process rather than the access it might provide to strangers’ anatomies. She enjoys that it is hands-on work. Hollish never knows in advance whether a piece is going to turn out or how she will feel about its being displayed.
Lurching up from my mold, I notice there’s still a large puddle where my cheeks are supposed to be. Hollish knows this is a problem. After shampooing my butt crack with Swiss Formula (banana-scented!), I check the cast. It looks more like the moon than my moon. Staring down at the wet spots and miniature craters, Hollish reassures me about my failed attempt. “It’s too flat,” she explains. “I mean, it’s good for your first time.”