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© 2019 by Hilary Pfeifer. 

Kharshouf

BFA Thesis Exhibition, Oregon College of Art and Craft, May 1999
Hoffman Gallery, Oregon College of Art and Craft, Portland, OR


When meeting new people, we make assumptions about what they are like based on what is readily available: their clothing, hairstyle, mannerisms, scent or speech. But it is only when we start to unravel their stories and learn about their life experiences that we start to understand more about personality. I am fascinated with the idea that I carry hundreds of formative experiences within my body–experiences that can be recalled through a variety of ways as I grow older, calling my cognitive, physical, or sensory memory into action. I believe that personality is a complex collection of experiences, which are stored in the body as if it were a vessel.

This installation of over 500 individual sculptures, is a self-portrait of what I think I would look like if I were seen as the hundreds of individual experiences I have had that played a significant role in the formation of my personality. Headphones hang to the rear of the installation space, playing a continuous loop of local composer Heather Perkins’ fourteen minute composition, commissioned especially for this installation. In the same way that I use found materials and objects to create my pieces, Heather uses original music and “sampled” and altered found sounds to create her music. I felt that the act of a single person wearing headphones while looking at such a large body of work mimics the one-on-one time it takes to really get to know another person.

I titled this installation “Kharshouf,” for the original Arabic word meaning “artichoke.” I like this curious word, both silly and pleasing to my tongue. I feel that the artichoke is the perfect metaphor for my thesis, and for the way it feels to come to understand someone’s personality in general. There are multiple sensations involved when eating an artichoke. Its scent is warm and dense, and it has a taste that is both pleasant and bitter. It is a primal, sensual experience to pull off each hard, spiky petal, one by one, using teeth and lips to scrape off the soft meat at the base. The leaves become more succulent as you pluck deeper, revealing the youngest, tiniest ones, paper thin and limp, still bearing that one sharp tooth at the tip. Just beneath is the hairy “choke” that tickles your throat if eaten. And when you remove that one last line of defense to reveal the tender, meaty heart, it is an intimate and deeply satisfying experience.


I have continued to make this work off and on over the past two decades and have some available for purchase. See images below

of several collections in private homes.

This work was featured in American Craft Magazine in their February/March 2002 issue, and in the 2013 feature article about my work.