Grapefruit Rind People Projects

compiled as a part of World's Largest Things educational division

Betty Milliken was born in Michigan to Hungarian immigrant parents. In her 90s, she was still firey and active, likely to break out into yodeling at the drop of a hat. Her artwork focused on using things other people would throw away, making images of people. She has always had an interest in portraiture, but favors rather unconventional materials: chewing gum, caulking compound, dried grapefruit peel and styrofoam meat trays! Her Grapefruit Rind people are first formed and dried, then clothed with cutouts from magazines and catalogs.


Grapefruit People

images from the Grassroots Art Center, Lucas KS

She gave direction in a 2003 interview with the Grassroots Art Center from Lucas, KS, as to exactly how it's done:

The first step is to "eat the grapefruit" she says.

It sould be peeled carefully, or cut the fruit into quarters or sixths and save the rinds. If you're making hats or birds, you can also cut the fruit in half, eat the graprefruit, and save the rind 'bowl'.

Make sure you've eaten or scraped off all the pulp, and are just left with a small layer of the white stuff and the rind.

Making a portrait:

Pin down a section of the rind to a backing board

Make texture by stuffing cotton underneath, pinning downaroung the stuffed area.

"Very slowly, little bit at a time, its hard to say this is the size, you keep adding to it, to the nose, and the forehead, don't forget the forehead!! You slow, slow but that thing has to be sort of half dried, not too moist, not completely dry, it has to stretch..."

"Make a hole here, start stuffing, know how big you want the cheek, stick it up there... It's fun! You don't know what it's gonna be, you don't know how there gonna come out"

Let dry, and paint!

Paint can be nail polish, acrylic, permanent marker. Anything that will mark on a peel once its dry!

Making stitched forms:

If you have sections or bowls of rind, punch a series of holes around the perimeters, at least 1/4 of an inch inside.

Let the pieces dry

Stitch them together in interesting ways using your pre-punched holes!

Once the pieces are dry, you can't really punch more holes without shattering the rind, but you can glue....

You can also stitch forms together while the rinds are wet, but as they dry they'll shrink so you may have some "Happy Accidents", the eternal friend of the experimental artist.

Betty Milliken resources

Interview on KCPT-TV's Rare Visions Roadside Revelations "Back to the Breadbasket" DVD collection from Season 9. - look for Betty in Lawrence, Kansas on the big interactive map.

Grassroots Art Center, Lucas KS - has a brief bio and a good collection in their museum in Lucas.


For workshops, class visits, or more information feel free to contact us:
World's Largest Things, Inc.
Erika, creator and curator
PO Box 101
Lucas KS 67648

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