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Cynthia Plaster Caster, artist who made penis casts of rock stars, has died

The US visual artist – aka Cynthia Albritton – used Jimi Hendrix as a subject back in 1968

By Tom Skinner

14th July, 2015. The American artist Cynthia Albritton alias Cynthia Plaster Caster poses with the penis moulds.
14th July, 2015. The American artist Cynthia Albritton alias Cynthia Plaster Caster poses with the penis moulds. CREDIT: Alamy

Cynthia Plaster Caster, the US visual artist famed for making penis cast models of rock musicians, has died at the age of 74.

According to her representatives, she passed away in Chicago following a long illness. A specific cause of death is not yet known.

Born in Chicago in 1947, Cynthia Plaster Caster – whose real name was Cynthia Albritton – attended art school in the 1960s. While studying there, she was tasked with creating a plaster cast of “something solid that could retain its shape” as part of an assignment. In turn, she looked at the frontmen of her favourite bands for inspiration.

Albritton’s first famous subject was Jimi Hendrix, who agreed to be cast while he was in Chicago as part of a tour in 1968. Then, in ’69, the visual artist cast two members of the MC5: Wayne Kramer and Dennis Thompson. However, the model of Kramer’s penis didn’t turn out as Albritton had planned.

“He got the container that wasn’t designed to mix alginates in,” she told The Chicago Reader in 2002. “And if you mix it the wrong way it sets prematurely. It set before he could push his dick all the way into the mold–only the head got in.”

Albritton continued: “Wayne is perfectly aware of what he’s got. He doesn’t have to prove anything to the world.”

Later, Frank Zappa became a fan of Albritton’s work and Gene Simmons wrote a track titled ‘Plaster Caster’ for KISS‘ 1977 album ‘Love Gun’. It includes the lyrics: “The plaster’s gettin’ harder and my love is perfection/ A token of my love for her collection.”

Despite endorsing her unique craft, neither Zappa nor Simmons participated in a casting session themselves.

After Albritton moved to Los Angeles, her apartment was broken into in 1971; she and Zappa then entrusted over two-dozen casts to the latter’s legal partner Herb Cohen for safekeeping, but he kept a hold of them for longer than intended.

Numerous failed attempts to regain the sculptures led to a court case, which resulted in Albritton getting all but three of the casts back.

Her later career saw Albritton create plaster replicas of female artists’ breasts, with Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O, Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, and Peaches among those to feature in the collection.

The late visual artist held her first plaster cast exhibition in New York City in 2000, and years later went on to showcase her work at MoMA PS1 in Queens. In 2001, Albritton – who described herself as a “recovering groupie” – was the focus of a documentary called ‘Plaster Caster’.

Speaking about her rock musician subjects during an interview in 2018 (via Pitchfork), Albritton explained: “Their human flaws make them kind of attractive. I was shocked and delighted to find that they were as insecure as I was. That kind of made me see them in a different light…They’re the same as us.”

Albritton took a turn into politics in 2010, when she ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Chicago on the “Hard Party” ticket.