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!
I’m excited, I’m focused, and occasionally a little anxious.
Although I don’t have a moving date as yet, it’s likely that I will be moving at the end of the month. I’m excited that I want to begin having contact with people, especially my peers and others in the creative community. Opportunity beckons.
It’s also getting close to a cut off point for deciding which course to study. Do I continue studying with the Open College of the Arts, or with the University for the Creative Arts. I’m very suited to distance learning, and I know that studying with the OCA provides me with as much opportunity as I wish to develop creatively, and flexibly. I’ve pulled off a coup by connecting with Laura Letinsky, and this tells me that I can create my own opportunities by studying this way. I value the tutors and the course material.
Studying with the UCA will give me access to a dark room, a vast library and work placements, as well as the opportunity to collaborate with other students in other fields. But… I’m getting these opportunities with OCA students, and as an undergraduate I can access any university library.
When I put it in black and white like this I can see that I have a preference. Next week I will speak with student services at the Open College of the Arts, and then meditate before making a decision.
The stitching will be done in a manner that uses shape and colour to emphasise the emotional expression.
Maurizio Anzeri (1969)
Fig. 1. Bernard (left) and Georgio (right)
Some of the most complex embroidery on photography that I’ve seen, I can’t help but admire the attention to detail and complexity.
- Colour can be used to highlight character, as can shape
- Bernard has some smooth, peaceful joy to counter elements of mania, business and disjointed thought
- Georgio is serious, effeminate, passionate and positive
Fig. 2. Louise B
- Louise is complex
- Likes order
- Sees everything
- An active intelligent mind
- Outwardly feminine but internally rigid
Fig. 3. Nadia
I find this to be a deeply emotional and sad photo. There is pain etched upon her face through the burgundy’s that permeate the gentleness and light of the pinks and whites. Those downward looking eyes with the black embroidery which follows her gaze, suggests a deep sense of sadness and loss.
Fig. 4. Peter
Perhaps a person with no sense of identity who lives in a complex state of psychotic delusion. He has a brain which is set to combust and explode, with an overload of neural connections. But also an introvert and unable to express his ideas.
Embroidering on top of a portrait can add a depth of characterisation. This can be done by using colour and shape, and with the right level of technical expertise, an artist can bring out different aspects of an individuals personality.
Anzeri’s art is phenomenal and he is a technical expert. I’m going to have to rewatch the following you tube tutorial to gain some tips.
Figure 1 Anzeri, M; Bernard and Georgio [thread on photograph]; AT: https://www.lomography.com/magazine/91702-maurizio-anzeris-embroidered-photography (accessed on 30/12/2018)
Figure 2 Anzeri, M; Louise B [thread on photograph]; AT: https://www.lomography.com/magazine/91702-maurizio-anzeris-embroidered-photography (accessed on 30/12/2018)
Figure 3 Anzeri, M; Nadia [thread on photograph]; AT: https://www.lomography.com/magazine/91702-maurizio-anzeris-embroidered-photography (accessed on 30/12/2018)
Figure 4 Anzeri, M; Peter [thread on photograph]; AT: https://www.lomography.com/magazine/91702-maurizio-anzeris-embroidered-photography (accessed on 30/12/2018)
OK, so this is not the greatest idea of a sampler, but it’s been good practice to try out different stitch samples for my fifth assignment. The majority of the artists who stitch over photography tend to use a long stitch, rather than different styles of stitching. And hey, their work is fantastic, so maybe the idea is to keep it simple. However, I like chain stitch and diagonal tent stitch – and I can see how they can be used, and perhaps cross stitch would be good over eyes.
- Blue – herringbone stitch
- Yellow – running stitch
- Orange – Cross stitch
- Pink – Back stitch
- Red – Tent stitch
- Green – Diagonal tent stitch
- Brown – Chain stitch
I recieved the most wonderful and exciting news yesterday. Laura Letinsky responded to my email, giving me permission to use 6 of her photos as the basis of my fifth assignment.
This assignment is exploratory in many ways, and I will use it to develop my embroidery skills, embroidering on top of photography.
Letinsky, in her own words, “cannabalises” her own and others photography. In anorexia the body moves into the metabolic state of catabolism, in which the body eats its own proteins (muscles) in order to survive. One idea is to make use of photographs of my body parts from when I was really ill, justapose them with photos from Letinsky’s I’ll Form and Void Full, and use embroidery to distort the shape of my limbs, picking out cours of the foods from Letinsky’s art.
The other option is to photography my face, capturing different emotional states, embroider over them in the style of Maurizio Anzeri, and justapose these with relevant parts of Letinsky’s art.
I’m not sure how I am going to develop these ideas into a concrete plan as yet, so time for some meditation.
Sadly there is a host of peer-reviewed research which highlight the reality that mental health professionals stigmatise people with mental health problems.
Although this is a disturbing finding, being on the receiving end of it is far worse. I have experienced this as an inpatient, as an outpatient and also in general.
I’m aware of these attitudes, but today I perceived stigmatisation by a former mental health professional. Yes some of my photography is disturbing, yes I’m aware of this, but do I have to hide my lived reality, whether past or present, so as not to offend you? No! My lived experience is real, and as a visual artist I will retain my authenticity, even if you believe it to be attention seeking. It isn’t, but to describe it so only increases the social exclusion that exacerbates mental health problems in the first place.
At some point in the future I will write a photo essay which explores stigmatisation by mental health care and general health care professionals.
Coming to the end of Foundations In Photography with the Open College of the Arts, I find myself in a position in which I want to prepare myself to study for a BA in Photography. Assignment 4 can definitely be the basis for a further body of work, probably by using masks or embroidering on top of photographs to represent aspects of self, especially those hidden repressed aspects. Sewing over the top of my own face was successful, if painful for me to view.
I have thoroughly enjoyed Staged photography and still life, and found a means of being authentic with these genres.
I’m very keen to explore these themes further, and I believe that sewing on a photograph provides an additional means to enhance or hide emotion and mood. It also means that I can distort my images and create harmonious fine art photography or to create visual and emotional discord and discomfort.
I’m going to use assignment 5 as a stepping stone to develop a secondary skill, and so that I can use photos as the basis of mixed media art.
- Expression of emotion in eyes
- Cross stitch pattern of facial expression
- Gerhard Richter documentary
- Basic stitch ideas (JW)
- Advanced over-sewing ideas (TL)
- Keep authenticity in my photography
- Break away from authenticity
- Explore more fully the work of Laura Letinsky
- Explore emotional States in the style of letinsky
- Review photography books for further ideas
- Create test photos
- Seek feedback upon ideas and test photos
- Make test photos with the public
- Review Maurizio Anzeri
- Review Carolle Benitah
- Review Julie Cockburn
- Select and print 6 photos from Ill Form and Void Full (consent gained on 28/12/18 from Laura Letinsky)
- Leave the photos on my lounge floor in order that I breath them into my soul
- Meditate – this will come together in its own way if I meditate
- Review Shaun Cardinal, Diane Meyer and Annegret Soltau
- Review Kate Aston
- Review https://hollyocacontextnarrative.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/assignment-5-constructed-image/
Any feedback upon my initial ideas would be most welcome.