I consider art a learning process, and create portraits as a way to learn about people in an attempt to achieve empathy. By spending much of my time drawing naturalistic portraits, I use art as a sort of information dump, to learn as much as I can about one person (through photos, memories, sound, etc) and document it along the way. I began using collage to layer all the information I gather about one person, working as intuitively as possible. Throughout this process, I realized that I was not using these portraits as learning processes at all—rather than challenging my own views on people, I was feeding into them, continuing to create portraits of the idealized characters rather than the subjects themselves. This led me to reconsider how I framed these collages, and how I could push myself into creating “facts” about people I know rather than using direct observation. By rearranging these portraits, I abandoned my attempts to create an objective image and moved fully toward subjective portraiture. To do so, I decided to make cyanotypes by painting photosensitive chemicals onto fabric and exposing my collages to sunlight. Using a photographic process to create drawings allowed me to make fact out of something subjective. As I was making these collage prints, I also began a parallel, and almost opposite, body of work involving exploring objectivity through audio paintings. While making portraits as subjects describe themselves, I keep the paintings hidden and instead use the audio recording of the painting sessions as the final product—overriding the influence of the artist, making a portrait as objective as possible.
Self Portraits (Carly, Anna, Jordan, Madison)
I am fascinated by moments that are unique to people and our interpersonal experiences and I explore these themes through process, using portraiture as a starting point. Interested in traces of human connection, I set out to test the idea that our personalities are fluid and largely obtained from the people around us; we unknowingly pick up mannerisms, traits, etc. from those we spend time with to the point that it can become unclear which traits originated where. Believing that portraiture may be able to serve as a form of self-portraiture, I began by drawing myself in charcoal for its malleable and impermanent qualities. I then transferred this drawing onto four sheets of paper that would each be used for a portrait of a person integral to my daily life at the moment. Using these portraits as references, I looked for ways to connect each subject with the rest by adding line drawings on top, removing the sense of volume and solidity from the original portraits. I did this multiple times, returning the line drawing to its original portrait, another step removed from the original. Then, using my obscured self portrait as a reference, I placed the drawings in the composition of a single portrait and used line to transfer my self portrait on the others. I used this self portrait as a form of research by going through the process of a universal human experience, and I found that this self portrait becomes more recognizable as others—blurred together in a way that makes it unclear where one personality ends and the next begins.
Charcoal on paper (four 18" x 24" sheets). 2017.
The Fourth Dimension
I would define our "fourth dimension" as the nonphysical space an object, or person, occupies in our memory that degrades over time. To explore my idea of the fourth dimension, I set out to experience this degradation of memory through the art-making process. I began with pieces of a self-portrait in charcoal drawn from life; these would be the most accurate representations of myself but also the least permanent. On top of that, I drew a still life in charcoal of a wire sculpture I had created to resemble my face. This is one step removed from a rendering of my actual face and obscures the portrait beneath it. Then, in sharpie, I added a line drawing of the wire sculpture from memory. This final step, a memory of a sculpture of my face, would be the least accurate representation but also the most lasting and permanent.