The past influences the person we are. The things we endure and the people that surround us shape our thoughts, behaviour and the things we love. Moments of our histories are captured with each fracture and bruising of our bodies, and in the way we choose to present ourselves — revealing or hiding our scars — are determined opportunities to see generational pasts and how genealogy moulds the future.
In my work, I deal with human nature in two ways: using bones and anatomical structures as icons, and using composed portraits to establish identity. In general, I prefer to keep my compositions simple, so that my techniques and processes become that much more apparent. My marks and gestures are meant to speak louder than the forms they comprise. Dense areas of detailing stand in juxtaposition to starker stretches of canvas, and aspects of layering are noticeable in both the act of creation and my finished pieces. I find that such composite building processes poetically mimic the growing pains of both body and soul.
My materials speak to my concept of mortality as well. In my paintings, I use soft, almost pastel-like colors to remind the viewer of the incredible delicacy of the human physique. Fragility is a series that looks at how the damage our bodies take helps define our life stories. Faced with imagery of physical decay, one can be transported back to, and perhaps release, decisive moments of trauma. Breaking bones, wearing down cartilage and tearing tendons can affect people for much longer than the initial injury. All the compression, insecurity and stress the body absorbs can become part of how it learns to function.
While people often live as if they were invincible, disease, sprains and stitches remind them of their limitations. The soft pastel-like palette of fleshy colors seeks to remind the viewer of the natural frailty of tissues and organs. I build up forms through several applications of paint, contrasting areas of great transparency with areas of opaque solidity. The layers of thin paint parallel the various minute mechanisms that allow for the healthy functioning of the human system.
Planes of palette knife gouges and bold strokes reference the intrusion of pathogens and mutations upon a person. All my media and the finished pieces themselves will eventually erode, becoming damaged from contact with people and the passage of time. Each mark hopes to add to an honest conversation about the temporal quality of our lives and to foster notions of respect and appreciation amidst sickness and atrophy.
Though whenever and wherever there’s corrosion and death, everlasting bonds linger on with stories to share with younger generations and the legions of the living. The strongest relationships that I maintain are those with my family; their insights and personal histories have fashioned my sense of me, the sentiments I will one day pass on.
In Layered Self, I applied portraiture directly to translucent plexiglass to trace my lineage, painting the faces of the women who have influenced my life the most. On separate clear supports are the faces of my grandmother, sister and mother. Their aligned presence assists and completes my image, on its own nothing but incomplete marks.
Gaps within one face blur the boundaries of each individual’s physicality, for they are filled with elements of another family member and use hereditary resemblances to unify our portraits. An oscillation takes place through the work’s stratified configuration, a ceaseless shifting that allows each generation to hold on to bits of itself while contributing to a transcendental identity.
The plexiglass is brittle, prone to breaking if not handled gently, much like our health and relationships when confronted with carelessness and hardships. Of an extra-smooth texture, my supports here are unable to grab lots of paint, causing the pigment to be flaky and rendering the images that much more vulnerable. All is susceptible to disintegration, just as our bodies and memories are.
However, akin to the effort required to stay fit and surrounded by loved ones, viewing the piece in the correct manner and environment is paramount to keeping it all together. The light that interacts with Layered Self is soft and unfocused. It boosts the transparency of the layers, preserving and highlighting details and affinities that could so easily be lost underneath.
By underscoring the relationship between the images, between one artist, her ephemeral state and her immutable ancestry, I aim to illuminate how beings and bodies that sometimes feel weak, isolated and unfathomable to others can converge, flourish and live on generation after generation.