Cynthia Albritton, better known as Cynthia Plaster Caster, has died following an illness, per Variety. She was 74. She was a bonafide rock legend, famous for her artistic practice of immortalizing rock stars’ penises by making plaster-casted sculptures of them.
Albritton grew up on the south side of Chicago. According to MTV News, as a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, she was given an art assignment “to make a plaster cast of ‘something hard.’” Following a few experiments on some friends, none other than Jimi Hendrix became her first famous plaster cast of a rock star’s penis in 1968. In her diary, Albritton wrote, “We need a ratio 28:28 and found this just barely sufficient. He (i.e. Hendrix) has just about the biggest rig I’ve ever seen!”
Frank Zappa soon took an interest in her art and moved her out to L.A., where her project and rock ’n’ roll lifestyle continued. Albritton went on to cast other rock and pop culture legends like MC5’s Wayne Kramer, singer/songwriter Anthony Newley, and The Jesus Lizard’s David Yow, resulting in dozens of casts. She later also included casts of breasts of female band members like L7’s Suzi Gardner and Sally Timms of The Mekons.
Albritton was immortalized in songs like Kiss’ “Plaster Caster” and Jim Croce’s “Five Short Minutes,” which included the line: “She casted me in plaster while I sang her a tune.” She was the subject of the 2001 documentary Plaster Caster, which included the following quote by fellow artist Ed Paschke: “It was one way of documenting a certain aspect of popular culture. That’s how I see her role and how she fits in to the world of art.” She also hosted many art exhibitions of her life’s work.
In later years, Albritton returned to Chicago, where she had a wide circle of friends, who she would unfailingly greet with her favorite endearment of “doll” and send postcards to every Christmas. She even ran for mayor of Chicago in 2010 on the appropriate “Hard Party” ticket, with slogans like “Erect Cynthia Plaster Caster” and “Hard On Crime.”
“Wherever you would go, she was ubiquitous, she would always be there,” said her longtime friend John Connors, who she gifted with the Newley cast for a birthday present. “She basically knew everybody. The art crowd, the music crowd, that was the most amazing thing, the breadth of people she knew in the art community.” Consequently, Connors reports, “In her final days, there was like a constant stream of people that were visiting her.”
As news of her death spreads, many well-wishers and friends and followers are expressing condolences on social media, with most remarking on how she was one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. Many also include the statement that could apply to no one else: “Rest in plaster.”