Sunday, 4 May 2014

See Me Here - Artists' Talk

On Friday 25th April, I had the opportunity to talk about my Costumed Self Portrait Series, which is featured in the newly published art book, See Me Here. Together with fellow artists, Dave Williams, Jaime Lee Loy, Roberta Stoddart, Steve Ouditt, Sheena Rose and Che Lovelace, we shared insights into our art making processes, as well as the self examination that forms the basis of our art. Here is a link to a recap of the evening, written by Marsha Pearce for Arc Magazine.

Below is the artist statement that I shared that evening.

"This body of work began as imaginary costumes in my mind's eye. The costumes always took the form of a ball gown, a corset or a girdle. These types of garments rigidly hold the idealised female form in the absence of the wearer. This suggests that these garments are inherently uncomfortable and force some physical, though temporary transformation upon the wearer."

"I deliberately chose materials like wire, mesh, sheet metal and mild steel to make these costumes. I could form these materials over my body. These materials added to the physical discomfort of the costumes."

"I chose to document myself wearing these costumes in private, using the self timer feature on my camera. The photographs documented my initial, spontaneous response to wearing the costume - its weight, how it felt against my skin, how it drew a performance out of me. At times I wanted to repeat the photographs to correct some technical fault or I had someone else take the photos for me. I found that at those times, my responses were too self conscious and contrived. Not honest. "

"Some photos depicted me conforming to the form and performing the personality of the costume. In other photos, I am wrestling with the costume. The poses and facial expressions contradict the proposed personality of the costumeWhile I explored physical discomfort in private, wearing the costumes that were overtly sexual in nature, in public, gave me the opportunity to explore emotional discomfort like shame and embarrassment."  

"Looking back at this body of work, some 14 to 24 years later, I wonder what this work was really addressing. The idea of discomfort creating transformation, comes to mind. Looking back at my past to find what could be the germ of this work, I think a big influence was being born with a hole in my heart and the corrective surgery that followed when I was 5 1/2 years old."  

"I can still remember the dream that I had during that surgery.  I was lying on the operating table, which was situated in a lowly lit, large loft with a wooden floor. I kept looking over to the right, at a dressmaker's mannequin in the shadows. It had a head, my mother's head. It was as if she was watching over me. Before leaving the hospital, I remember sitting with the doctor for a final check up. He was going to remove the 2 wires that were sticking out of my body. They were there to check the electrical function of my heart and determine if I would need a pacemaker. I didn't. The doctor then allowed me to pull them out for myself and I kept them in a jar for some years after."

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