What does it mean to respond to your own body?
How can the body be visible and invisible at the same time?
How is the performance of self-portraiture another way of considering the body?
Where does physicality lie within a flat plane?

These are the questions that burn holes through my skin, aching to touch the light and explore the possibility of answer. I am never looking for a single answer, but a multitude. When making, I find myself recognizing the performance of making, the performance of existing, the performance of interacting with my own body and with the camera.
This work is rooted in the exploration of the long history of how the female body is represented in art, specifically photography. I strive to understand my place in the contemporary landscape of photography, collage, and how to take hold of the female gaze.


How Do I Call Myself Back to the Body is the title of the printed photographic collages. This line was taken from the most important book in both my life as a person as well as an artist. The Waves by Virginia Woolf is one that I have read multiple times, as far back as 2008. My copy has been taped back together, has variations of underlines based on when I was reading it and what stood out to me when. This book gave the loose title of my BFA thesis work, and now has lended its hand to this work as well. The Waves is considered to be Woolf’s most experimental novel, and the perspective from which the characters lend their voices blurs the line between poetry and traditional writing.
Rhoda is my favorite of the six characters, and the exact passage from which the title of my work comes is from one of her soliloquies:

“Therefore I hate looking-glasses which show my real face. Alone, I often fall down into nothingness. I must push my foot stealthily lest I should fall off the edge of the world into nothingness. I have to bang my hand against some hard door to call myself back to the body.” (44)

While The Waves was the first clicking point of this title for me, a parallel came from Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts.

“Ah yes, I think, digging a knee into the podium. Leave it to the old patrician white guy to call the lady speaker back to her body, so that no one misses the spectacle of that wild oxymoron, the pregnant woman who thinks. Which is really just a pumped-up version of that more general oxymoron, a woman who thinks. (91)

The metal plates have been titled: Is This Poetry if We Do Not Write It? This line is also adapted from The Waves, although the soliloquy here comes from the point of view of Neville. The use of Neville is less important, the line itself is important because the metal plates themselves are moments of solitude, moments of poetry. A great deal of my research during this thesis work has been through reading poetry and books that operate in the vein of poetry (Maggie Nelson, Virginia Woolf). A question that continuously comes to mind when reading is how can poetry be defined, presented, and visualized? The statement of “This is poetry if we do not write it.” was changed into a question for this work specifically for this reason.

This is poetry if we do not write it.” (196)

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Today is my final critique before install, and I’m feeling pretty good about it. My photographs have come a long way, currently I have some hanging with three, four, and five layers of collage.

Today I have a mix of color and black and white photographs hanging on the wall. I’m hoping to get some feedback on whether those are working together or if one is stronger than the other. I have an opinion on it, but I’ll wait to share until I hear what the group has to say.

I’m also hoping to get some feedback on whether the metal plates are working with the prints. The most immediate difference is definitely scale- the metal plates are 8×10″ and the prints are 27×40″. They are hung in the center in between prints, but I am looking for some feedback on how they can be displayed differently in conjunction with the prints (provided everyone thinks the two mediums are working together).

The large scale prints are on matte paper, but I am planning to have them printed on luster. I printed four tests at a smaller scale on some epson luster paper in order to get feedback on the paper and how the luster materiality works with the plates. I would like the prints to be framed with either a thin raw wood frame or a thin black frame. I screen grabbed a photo from Angela Meleca Gallery’s instagram that I thought represented what I mean pretty well.

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I’m pretty excited for critique today, seeing everything up on the wall helps me realize I have a lot more accomplished than I thought I did. The prints are so large that it’s been difficult to get a solid idea of how far along this has evolved because my studio just isn’t large enough to see everything all together in this way. I’ve been working constantly and haven’t taken a moment to hang these all up in a large space on a white wall. Preparing for this critique gave me a moment to pause, breathe, step back, and acknowledge how hard I have worked to make everything come together.

My last two blog posts are also good references for further understanding of what I am doing if you haven’t been in critique with me before. I posted them both within the last week/week and a half so they are pretty fresh as far as what I am thinking about, how I am working, and what artists I am currently looking at.

Since last semester I have been working on including collage/photo work in conjunction with my metal plates. At the start of fall semester I was mixing prints of what are now my metal pieces with self portraits that came from the same roll:

This has changed in many ways. Helen taught me the magic of supersauce and my metal plates were born from that. From there, I became invested in collage and how I could insert found photographs into/onto my self portraits:

As much as I loved my found photos and wanted them to be incorporated into the work, I found that they were getting lost on people. In critique my peers thought that they were looking at images of women from my family and not so much that I was creating a matriarchal family in which I was attempting to respond to. This made me realize that I was only dipping my toe into the collage realm, and that the found photos didn’t matter as much. I started to ask myself how I could challenge the notion of collage, how I could create work in a collage fashion that had not necessarily been seen before (or at least complicate that idea). That lead me to the first critique of spring semester. Unfortunately, I had to move my critique up one week, so the work that I showed was not completely up to where I wanted it to be when I got the first peer review (Also: Sorry to everyone in that critique, I was in a bitchy mood that day and could have actually talked instead of festering in the misery). I also hung my metal plates in salon style, which I fucking hated. The lesson I learned from that method of installation was not only that I didn’t like it, but also that that definitely separated the two works and didn’t give them any room to speak to each other:

Now I am on to developing this new photographic work as much as I can over the next few weeks (Please don’t kill me, Ric, I have plenty of finished work for thesis). I have been finding it to be more compelling and beautiful and intriguing than the metal pieces (I’m so sorry, I know you all love them- I love them too, just not as much as I love this) and I am hoping to resolve it in a way that feels like it fits into the thesis show. I met with Neil Goldberg and Ofer Wolberger today and both of them encouraged me to do this, pushed me to challenge myself on the work, and agreed that this work is more interesting. I know thesis is breathing down our necks but dammit, I don’t like to settle in one place for too long.

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I am considering what it means to respond to one’s own self/body, what it means to complicate time and narrative, what it means to layer the body, what it means to collage in 2018. Join me on this journey. Stop by my studio. Come to my critique. I promise we can have an engaging conversation.

 

But I’m not going to give too much more away here, for now.

 

I am thinking about modes of self portraiture, and creating collages through my camera out if images of myself.

I’m making these in film, but have been creating digital tests so that I can ensure I am on the right track- the traditional photographs you will see on the wall will be these tests, not final results.

The metal plates are arranged differently than the past two iterations. Currently, they are mounted with velcro, but this is not how they will be mounted in their final form. I still want them to emerge from the wall more than they are in this display. This is also not their final design- some of the larger ones are tests that will be redone once I get help from the printmaking department in printing on larger transfer paper. I am just testing how they can come together, how the gutter space works, etc. I am planning to make a good deal more than I will actually display in my thesis exhibition and curate some of the plates out. There will also be some smaller ones that will go into the gaps (thanks, Paul, for helping me with your knowledge).

The two pieces are meant to interact together, they are separate but one. They speak to each other, but are not the same process.

I think this is all I can tell you right now, see you in critique!

What is my relationship to/with other women?

What common traits do we share?

How do women pose their bodies for photographs?

Who is holding the camera?

How do women touch each other?

How do these women touch me– even if we haven’t met?

What does repetition mean to the self portrait?

What does it mean to put found photos over self portraits?

How can I complicate the question further?

How can I make it harder for my viewer to understand immediately?

How does my mark/trace impact the viewer?

When do we come together?

Do I need to know their histories?

If their family has discarded their memory can they become my family now that I own the image?

Are they surrogates for myself?

Or separate entities?

When does it end?

Does it end?

In addition to my own work this semester, I had the pleasure of getting to work on a collaborative project with some of my peers for SOFA Connect Chicago. I had no idea what this convention was, and was overwhelmed by the amount of people who came to interact with our project. I’d like to share some of our installation shots with you as well as some of our final set shots that I documented on my phone during the process. This definitely slowed down some of the progress on my own work, so I think it is important to share that I have been working my ass off, just in a different context than usual.

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Shout out to: Yajim Amadu, Molly Jo Burke, John Cairns, Katie B Funk, Nate Gorgen, Young-Mi Lee, Yae Reem Lee, and Hannah Waters.