In December of 2012, I underwent liposuction to make my thesis art piece. I used my body as my medium. Fresh liposuction fat turns rancid, so I decided to convert it into soap.
This is a documentation of the surgery, the soap-making, and the application of the soap to my body. As a gay man, I wanted to convert something that is regarded as dirty pr shameful into something luxurious, healthful and potentially healing. As a performance artist, this seemed to me like a chance to bring the commoditization of art full circle.
I love to combine the worlds of art and beauty together. I work in the beauty industry as a hairstylist and makeup artist, so topics of beauty such as plastic surgery, cosmetic enhancements and diets are commonplace in the salon/makeup chair. Clients are willing to try anything to feel and look beautiful, even to the extent of buying products with human elements in them (stem cells, placenta, semen; you name it, it's out there.)
This video piece is part of a complete art experience, including a display of the 20 bars of soap made, and a live demonstration of the soap for museum attendees. The demonstration was done on the opening reception of the exhibition. It is currently on exhibit at the Frost Art Museum at Florida International University until May 19th. For more information, visit orestesdelapaz.com for full documentation.
The soap is made of:
30% organic coconut oil
30% organic vegetable shortening
25% human body fat
15% African shea butter
1.3 oz of lavender essential oil
0.7 oz of tea tree oil
I used a wet rendering process to clarify the fat for four hours, then straining the impurities. I put the fat to chill for a couple of days to reach a semi-soft consistency.
The human fat is first poured into the crock pot since it was the first solid to liquify the fastest, while the rest of the fats were mixed and warmed slowly until all mixed.
As shown in the video, I used a hot-process method for making soap, which slowly cooks the lye out of the mix and allows the pH to drop low enough to use within an hour. It was then poured into a mold and left to harden for 14 hours.
Special thanks to Dr. Michael Salzhauer MD FACS for allowing the camera into the surgery room and letting me keep the fat.