Silenus is a giant inflatable figure made of an extremely delicate nylon spinnaker, a material typically used in the making of racing sails. It fills with air by means of an industrial blower. Silenus is not an imagined or abstract figure. The pattern was taken from the life-cast of a friend of the artist. This is important to understand that Streicher makes these works himself, from beginning to end. He sculpts an original model in wax upon which he designs an intricate pattern. Then, he drafts and enlarge the pattern before cutting and sewing the numerous parts into the final forms. These lines, at times shaky and uncertain, preserve the action of Streicher’s hand as he attempts to describe the living, moving lines of a real person’s anatomy. He feels that the evidence of his hand contributes to the distinctive way that a figure like Silenus comes to life. The position of Silenus, lying on his back, limbs extended, can be read in various ways: Sleeping, perhaps surrender, or like an infant reaching for a parent. The stillness of this giant, which appears to be floating, like an astronaut in space, combined with the qualities of the nylon spinnaker—delicate, papery, translucent—reinforces this sense of a transient presence—perhaps a spirit ready for ascent.
For over 30 years he has been creating complex figures and shapes with lightweight materials such as nylon, synthetic paper or vinyl. The works come to life by means of small industrial blowers. He uses air to animate shapes because it provides effortless naturalism, recalling our own feeling of breathing. The force of air, the way it fills a shape and moves through a flexible material, invokes our own feeling of breathing, wheezing, holding our breath. The choice of extremely light and paper-based materials increases this sense of absence, death and transience, of the almost absent. His work with the inflatable sculpture always aims to bring the viewer back to the body, to the breath, to the awareness of the tenuousness and fleeting nature of our existence.