Yesterday I had some free time to have a look around the Wellcome Collection. Most interesting was the one mask/collage which included some sewing over the top of photography. Produced by Heidi Kerrison, her collage related to fears in relation to cloning and genetic modification.
Her work demonstrates that I could use both collage and embroidery to create the effects that I am looking for. I quite like the stitching around the edge of the face, it’s complex and detailed, but I don’t like the sewing around the eyes.
There were other masks which I found interesting, especially the scolds brindle. I could embroider a mask in this style, and add the tongue piece. It would work well to highlight the element of self punishment and restraint that I experienced as a result of my anorexia.
With signing my new tenancy today meaning that I’m in London, I planned a gentle day at the British Museum.
My project for assignment 5 is using self portrait and embroidery to explore the emotional States of anorexia. I visited the British Museum as a means of having a gentle day after signing my tenancy. I travel back tomorrow and then move here on Friday. Yay.
It quickly became apparent that the museum has a collection of masks in most of the cultural zones. Masks being an important element of many traditional and indigenous cultures, religions and traditions. As I will be embroidering onto my self portraits for this assignment, then I see that I am creating masks.
I felt particularly drawn to shamanic cultures that use icons depicting animal spirits. Some cultures use masks to reveal hidden aspects of personality, rather than to hide them. This feels particularly pertinent to me in my process of recovering from my eating disorder.
Hidden or suppressed aspects of my character being revealed to aid me in my recovery, now that makes sense to me. Animals are important to me as spirit guides, and I’ve previously blogged about my connection with pigs, and their spiritual representation of abundance. I feel drawn to kingfishers, which to me represent both protection and rage. These are helpful and unhelpful aspects of personality. Kingfishers will fight other kingfishers to death to protect their territory. That fits in with my portrait depicting rage. Some native American cultures consider the rattlesnake (utsonati) to be a potent medicine spirit, which fits in with recover. This would work well with pride, my sixth self-portrait.
Today I’ve also considered that I could make a plaster cast of my face, and then use the decoupage technique to blend my portraits with Letinsky’s photography to add a different dimension to the work I am producing.
My tutor recently gave me some feedback, suggesting that I be open-minded to the organic evolution of my ideas. Today’s trip to the British Museum has done just that. Is anyone up for making plaster casts of my face? I can’t remember when I last got plastered!
My self portraits have arrived, and you know what, I’m actually pleased with them. The expression has come out how I wanted (although I should have taken a higher resolution image for these photos).
There are three potential ways to create this assignment now. To present the full self portraits as they are, along with written and spoken word for each portrait, with the text relating to the represented emotional state.
To block out and reveal my eyes and face, and selected aspects of the Laura Letinsky photos, along with written and spoken word, and include a physical object similar to that revealed in Letinsky’s photo. This would then be an installation.
Thirdly, to embroider over my portrait’s and the Letinsky photo’s. Use a similar object from the Letinsky photo’s to be placed between the portrait and her image, sew from the portrait to her picture to join the two together, and finish off with text to create an audio-visual installation.
I’m going to use all three methods as I printed 3 of each of Letinsky’s and my photos.
It’s great that I am pleased with my portraits. I really wasn’t expecting that. They are great photo’s and clearly represent the emotional States that I want them too. I have only revealed they eyes here, as they will be the revealed aspects in the second and third presentation. I know my tutor can only accept one version to review, which will be the embroidered version, but there’s no harm in trying all three ways.
I’m taking an unplanned study break. I move to London at the end of next week, which is incredibly exciting. I’m also finding the pressure of moving to be exhausting. I’m learning to listen to my body, and just now I’m needing to rest.
I am experiencing moments of anxiety, not a huge amount, and I think the exhaustion and need for additional sleep, is the way my body and mind need to do things in order for me to cope. The anxiety had triggered my neuro-muscular condition quite severely, which will also have an impact upon the tiredness. I’m going with what my body needs at the moment, and that feels so healthy.
I’m still waiting for my self portraits to arrive. My next steps will be to review Cindy Sherman’s use of masks, and then to begin embroidering over my portraits. But that’s for once I’ve moved.
Looking after myself is not a natural experience, but it’s happening. It’s a change that I put down to working the 12 step programme. It’s a relief to pace myself, focus on one thing at a time, and rest. Rest includes play, which right now is about watching comedy and the occasional movie.
I’m on track with my eating, and working closely with my nutritionist. I can’t believe that I’m coping with change without restricting my diet or bingeing and purging. I feel very grateful.
Firstly – I know have a working title for my assignment… “The Emotional States Of Anorexia”. The emotions that I’m photographing all relate to different emotions that I have experienced that relate to my anorexia.
Defiance (fuck you! I won’t eat and you can’t make me)
Pride (Yes – another target weight hit)
Rage (I fucking hate my self)
Joy (I can wear those new skinny jeans now I’ve hit that weight)
Fear (I’m so fucking scared of eating, l will have to kill myself if I do)
Grief (I hurt so much I can’t cope anymore)
Now I know that you know that I hate my photo being taken. I hate seeing photos of myself. It’s taken me sometime to build up the willingness to photograph myself. Tomorrow and Thursday I have the pain of seeing my face when I develop them. Fuck sake. Why am I doing this. I could have used someone else as the model.
Thing is I can’t. I know that these emotions are extreme and trying to work with a model and talking them into these states is gonna be challenging and time-consuming. I know these emotions and the thoughts that go with them. They’ve been a second skin that I’ve lived in. Consequently it’s taken me an hour to make these photos.
I’ve not liked doing it at all, but, I’ve got the photos that I need. I’ve captured the emotions. Am I putting them up on here? Not bloody likely. Once I’ve embroidered over them then I will publish them, but they, of themselves, are not the final piece of work. They are just part of a still life audio, visual installation that will be juxtaposed with the Laura Letinsky photography.
If I put my displeasure about the photos of myself to the side, I feel excited. This is coming together. My creative vision is clear, I can see the outcome.
Will I exhibit the six pieces I am creating? Damn right if I can get the right curator and the right space. It’s weird how I can feel so confident of that when I can’t stand seeing my photo. Perhaps it’s because my portrait is just a part of a larger piece of work, that my face will be sewn over? Perhaps it’s just a dichotomy of the human experience.
OCA student Kate Aston, very kindly sent me two of her photos, from a previous assignment, in which she embroidered over photography. Both of which are of a climbing wall.
Although I’m limiting my focus to the stitching, as this is research for my assignment, I do wish to pass comment upon this second photo.
The depth of field is incredible, and this draws me right into the photo. The DoF is so narrow that I imagine that an extension tube was used on a 200mm- 300mm lens to create a macro lens. I’m also going to assume that the shot is made on the ground, shooting high up into a join between wall and ceiling, and that the plans have been shifted by rotating and cropping during the development process. I’m probably wrong. But this photo is so intriguing. It’s also very easing aesthetically.
Having seen this work I have decided to use the embroidery from Kate’s first photo to provide the relay between my face and the subject in Laura Letinsky’s photo. I hadn’t considered creating an installation prior to viewing Kate’s assignment. This is the advantage of connecting with fellow artists and photographers.