If we do not closely look and constantly examine the earth beneath our feet so many fascinations of this life can be missed. Whether it is when a dream manifests itself in the flesh or when that perfect soulmate walks by in a crowded room. In my photographic practice, I seek to create images not of this world, to use photography as a stepping-stone to the unknown realm just past the peripheral edge of consciousness. My photographs bring imagination into fruition and provide a visual escape from the ordinary to the fantastical.
A recurrent theme throughout my portfolio and background as an artist is the idea of woman as the life force, literally the bearer of life, despite the limiting—and sometimes suffocating — expectations that society imposes on her. My connection to women as refuge is a natural consequence of my life experiences, where the expectations of men too often have taken precedence over my desires to be an independent person and artist. Therefore, I create work that is feminine in both its nature and subject, work that acts as a safeguard against masculine forces that I am encountering on my journey to defining my identity as a woman and artist. The photographs that I’m currently creating are helping me better understand my relationships to other women—and men, too.
Day to day, most people see only what is directly in front of them. They make little room for anything that is mysterious, unexplainable, or even fantastical. Just as my photos attempt to allow women to expand beyond traditional roles, they seek to guide viewers towards a fuller life by embracing the subconscious, which is captured through the camera lens. At the genesis of my photographic practice is an urge to create images that transcend this world to capture a fuller experience of being alive, where all of us can step beyond what is expected to embrace the unknown. This latest series, intertwined with my earlier fairytale-based works, returns to the theme of solidarity among women. An undercurrent to these artistic statements on feminism—and in the broader sense, humanism—is the elevation of the need to fully embrace life.
No one can explain the mysteries steaming through this life. I can’t rule out the more magical elements just because they can’t be explained - just because we are told to hang up our imagination as we age. While on top of a mountain in North Georgia at The Hambidge Center for Creative Arts & Sciences, I experienced a series of sights that defy description. Coincidence can’t even begin to encapsulate my experience during this residency.For the sake of not sounding insane, I will not go into great detail but I felt those mountains really had a story to tell and one could sense how sacred that space was. Most of the images in Just Past the Peripheral resulted from this time of meditation and isolation. They will continue to expand and grow as my exploration of art continues and as I try to not just live not only on this earth but beyond this plane of existence.
Misanthropia- A Performance
A performance piece on the 12th of June
where the viewer was invited to pour wax
on artist Charlie Watts
and whisper secrets in her ears
This has been hard to write.
This is hard to write.
Two years ago this summer, Aura Thunder performed a piece of poetry where she hot-glued trash to her face as she lip synced to Britney Spears. She had passed out scraps of waste before the performance and I found myself unable to stop handing her bits and pieces. I knew for each piece of trash that she hot-glued to herself the excruciating pain it would cause.
I couldn’t stop myself.
No one could stop intentionally causing her pain. This piece will stick with me for the rest of my life. After a devastating breakup, that was meant to be peaceful, caused a considerable amount of heartache I began to obsess about this idea of causing pain and how frequently it happened organically. With that heart break it struck me how many others had gone through the exact same circumstance and how this pain was in no way unique. Causing hurt to those closest to us is so easy. The cruelest act I have ever done was to one of the closests people to me in the world and I regret it regularly.
But I still caused her pain.
In his play, No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre famously states, "L'enfer, c'est les autres" or “Hell is other people.” All people, in their own way, have inflicted pain on others, whether by accident or intention. This life at times is swept into a repetitive cycle of hurt and hurting. In Misanthropia, I invited the viewer to acknowledge this cycle by dripping candle wax on my body in sacred space. I meticulously created the space to mimic many of the Catholic cathedrals we visited near my grandfather’s farm in Tuscany with hints of the Sedlec Ossuary Bone Church outside Prague. Most of the work I’ve made throughout my life has stemmed from these places I visited as a child with Masaccio's Madonna’s and Botticelli’s Simonetta Vespucci always at the back of my mind.
The original concept for Misanthropia was to have people come into the space and poor wax on my body. Thus, like Aura Thunder, the viewer would intentionally be causing the artist pain. By acknowledging the pain would this help the viewer more deeply exam their current relationships and be made aware of how they were treating those around them? Only later did the idea of whispering secrets also become part of the piece after two years of consideration.
One June 12th, I was nervous.
I couldn’t stop violently shaking.
So many more people came earlier than I expected, but, once I was in character the piece organically moved forward. I whispered secrets into the viewers ears as a I lit over 200 tea candles. For most of this time, I didn’t have any clear thoughts. I felt more like I was involved in some game to see who could light the most candles and I need to pick up the pace.
I will never light that many tea candles ever again.
Once the sun had set, my dear friend and I moved into the cathedral/shed/temple/shack. She undressed me and dumped freezing water over my head.
It was so cold.
She poured wax over my eyes.
A few seconds after she left the me in space I could hear someone move into the space. I couldn’t see anything, but through the wax I could make out globes of light from the candles. What came next was quite frankly shocking. I had prepared myself for the heat of the wax but was completely unprepared for the open vulnerability of the secrets that people shared with me that night. It was heart breaking, funny, and beautiful what strangers and friends shared with me. Some people would get right up and touch my face as they whispered in my ears, other kept their distance.
Almost everyone took a photo on their iPhone.
Being blinded was hard, not knowing when or where the wax would hit, but most people were very considerate of where they poured it. I don’t think, if I were on the other side, I would be as considerate. One of the fascinating aspects was many of the secrets told to me had to do with physical pain and individuals would pour wax where the physical pain was happening. I had done several dress rehearsals but with that much wax on my body I could barely move. Half way through I lost all feeling in my legs.
It had crossed my mind how vulnerable I would be during this piece but the vulnerability that was returned was worth all the discomfort. Being able to be an empty vessel for people to pour their pain into was not a part of the original piece but I’m glad that is the way it unfolded. I rarely recognized the voices but for the few people I did it was hard not react - to reach out to them and be held. The whole experience was incredibly lonely and isolating. Dealing with all these secrets was hard. When my friend finally came and led me out it was such a relief. I felt so happy as I scrapped the layers and layers of wax off my body.
This was the most beautifully intense evening of my life.
My whole heart goes out to Susan Bridges, Sabrina Bernstein, and Peter Bourdeaux for hosting and helping with this piece. Photographs by Jamie Hopper.