Amanda Visell’s Wood Labbit Works, 2009-2014

There’s a long and strange history to Frank Kozik‘s Labbit creation, which was refered to simply as Rabbit when first conceived in 1996.
Frank Kozik's Smorkin' Labbit (with Kidrobot), 2005, second edition circa 2007

Photo: Kidrobot

With a cigarette dangling from its 5 o’clock shadow dotted face, Rabbit (or Smoking Rabbit) became a featured character on several products manufactured and released by Kozik’s music label, Man’s Ruin Records, throughout the late ’90s. But, in 1998, Kozik made his entry into the designer toy movement with a handmade edition of roughly-hewn Rabbit renditions that were cast in resin and sold in Japan. Transitioning to vinyl production in partnership with Bounty Hunter, Kozik’s character had been renamed Smorkin’ Labbit, which remained its name when Kidrobot assumed vinyl production of the pieces in 2005. Joe Ledbetter was slated to become the first artist, aside from Kozik, to conceive a production paint application for the Labbit, but his Cold Turkey (2006) was cancelled and never officially released. And this means that, in 2009, Amanda Visell‘s Wood Labbit would be the first non-Kozik designed production version of the form.

Amanda Visell’s Factory Produced Wood Labbit

Allowed freedom to reinvent the Labbit form for her piece, Visell created a testament to nature with her Wood Labbit, the painted wood grain decorating the body flowing perfectly into the added sprouting branches with leaves. And its cartoonishly cute face contrasts perfectly with the x-ray view of its stomach contents, the lumberjack Kozeek, who presumably cut off one its ears and its tail. Featuring a removeable axe accessory atop its head, this approximately 5-inch long vinyl edition was limited to 300 pieces that were exclusively available at San Diego Comic-Con in July of 2009. But the story of this piece wasn’t over, as Visell would further modify and hand-paint versions of her Wood Labbit later that same year.

Amanda Visell’s One-Of-A-Kind Wood Labbit Works

Released in pairs every day from October 21st until the 25th of 2009, these ten unique versions of Visell’s Wood Labbit each featured original sculpting and painting work by the artist, transforming the production version into one-of-a-kind pieces of art.

Ice Wood Labbit

Decorated in hues of frostbitten blue, the Ice Wood Labbit (2009) doesn’t stray drastically from the production version’s concept. Adorned with faux snow patches atop it, the wonderful interplay of her painted colors coating the body are truly given the chance to be highlighted here. And while a shiveringly cold colored rendition of Kozeek lurks in the beast’s belly, his axe has been modified with a smiley face, a consistant element in all ten of these renditions.

Burning Wood Labbit

Perhaps having lit his match to peer around in the darkness, the lumberjack Kozeek appears to have started a forest fire on the Burning Wood Labbit (2009). Using simple, triangular shapes, Visell wonderfully captures the feel of raging flames upon her Wood Labbit‘s backside, the surrounding brush strokes perfectly emulating the appearance of soft glow emanating from the blaze.

Escape from the Wood Labbit

With Escape from the Wood Labbit (2009), Visell’s reveals a moment when man triumphs over nature, when the lumberjack Kozeek has freed himself from the his digestive tract prison. Expressing the escape through a sunken hole where the stomach interior’s painting traditionally was placed, this — along with the Kozeek character’s geometrical sculptural construction — emphasize the cartoon-inspired aspects of the piece. But, having reclaimed his axe, Kozeek’s already added a new slice into his former captor’s hide, which once again draw one’s thoughts towards the conflict between man and nature.

Moonglow Wood Labbit

Featuring shape-based sculptural additions of woodland animals, such as rabbits and bears, peeking out of their cavernous holes, the Moonglow Wood Labbit (2009) contains Kozeek in hunter form, shotgun in hand. The Wood Labbit‘s pleased facial expression is mirrored not only in all the critters depicted emerging from its hide but also on the moon’s face that hangs above them, its bluish glow radiating across the backside and highlighting the tops of various elements.

Swamp Thing Wood Labbit

Most likely a tribute to the DC Comics‘ character Swamp Thing, whose eponymous title frequently explored environmental issues beginning with Alan Moore‘s writing tenure in 1983, Visell’s Swamp Thing Wood Labbit (2009) has thick tangles sculpted across its hide reminiscent of the comic character’s appearance. And, while less likely to be a conscious choice, the rendition of Kozeek depicted herein is sprouting roots for hands and feet, elements often associated with one of Swamp Thing’s nemesis, the Floronic Man, who believed he worked towards the benefit of plantkind but was ultimately blinded by self-serving goals.

The Birds Wood Labbit

While the title The Birds Wood Labbit (2009) obviously references the assortment of black birds perched upon this piece, one can’t help but make the association between this work by Visell and the Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds. A well-known example from cinema of nature seeking revenge upon mankind, this underscores Visell’s commentary created within her entire Wood Labbit line, while the sole representative of humanity, Kozeek, resides in typical spot, holding aloft a caged bird.

Chopped Wood Labbit

Modified to appear cut almost completely in half, the Chopped Wood Labbit (2009) once again prominently employs Visell’s brushing aesthetic across its form. With the split halves filled inside and minimally decorated to imply a tree’s interior, the rendition of Kozeek is likewise depicted as being divided into two, creating a commentary about how what mankind does to nature is something we also do to ourselves.

Pirate Ship Wood Labbit

Departing from the environmental issues implied by the previous renditions, Visell’s Pirate Ship Wood Labbit (2009) adds a trio of masts to the backside of piece, transforming the wood grain patterning by association into the likeness of a boat. With a Jolly Roger flag flown atop the heighest point, the hook-handed Captain Kozeek resides in the belly of his craft, almost submerged below the beautifully rendered water line of the underside.

Dead Wood Labbit

With most of its branches emaciated and barren, several leaves having fallen onto its backside, the Dead Wood Labbit (2009) employs a dark color scheme emphasized by the zombie-like appearance of Kozeek within. Perhaps the ultimate iteration of the environmental concept behind the Wood Labbit, this version maintains the piece’s smiling face as a couple of leaves have sprouted anew in the wake of the death surrounding them.

Treehouse Wood Labbit

A piece of nostalgic bliss for those that owned treehouses as children, the Treehouse Wood Labbit (2009) features a beautifully constructed simple fort structure on its backside, complete with wood board ladder rungs to grant access. And even though Kozeek’s facial appearance isn’t one of joy, he holds aloft a wooden sword, having obviously partaken in the playtime this shelter affords.

Amanda Visell’s Handmade Wood Pandalope

In 2013, Visell revisited the core composition, offering a hand-modified and painted edition of 25 Wood Pandalope pieces. Created using the roughly 10-inch long Labbit form, the same size she used to create the design master for the smaller Wood Labbit production piece, this new variation maintained several conceptual elements from the original with the complete omission of Kozik’s lumberjake namesake. Using actual bamboo harvested from her property, the branches were topped with sculpted styrene leaves, while both of the ears were modified for these renditions; the one with a full appearance has actually been shortened, recreated using wooden half-spheres and epoxy putty, while severed one was executed on the alternate side to the original. And while the paint application appears deceptively simple, like on all her handmade pieces, it employs a wide variety of subtle variations to each color to achieve the finished look. Visell documented the process of creating this edition from beginning to end, painstakingly making each one appear as precisely similar to her original “master” version as possible.

The Making of the Wood Pandalope

Amanda Visell’s Handmade Wood Jackalope

And, finally, in May of 2014, Visell revealed her handmade Wood Jackalope piece, given the branch-like antlers of the Wood Pandalope while retaining much of original Wood Labbit‘s aesthetic, including the return of the lumberjack Kozeek into the belly of the beast.

For more information on Amanda Visell:
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For more information on Frank Kozik:
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