New Work – September: She Is An Atlas

This was one of the most challenging pieces in my series thus far, because I was working with multiple layers of meaning and thoughts. It also is the most “mixed media” of all my series installments, utilizing not just mixed fine art mediums but fabric, metal chain, tiny rhinestones, and torn book pages. I have been so into metallic accents since the collaboration with my friend and student, Heather. I also blame her for the inclusion of rhinestones – she encourages me to be sparkly.

she is an atlas

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that when I feel, I feel BIG or not at all. There is no other way. The sketch that inspired this piece started as a way for me to process the weight of my own emotions and feelings of powerlessness. As  I began further conceptualizing this current series, I realized the idea could fit as one of the 12 pieces. For new readers, here’s my blurb briefly explaining the series (If you are already in the know, feel free to skip ahead 😉 ): I am creating 12 mixed media, surreal, conceptual portraits in which the meaning is influenced by the use of pattern and color. They will depict women of all ages, races, and time periods, and each will communicate a different theme. I aim for the pieces to speak to women’s collective experiences beyond their differences. Each of the 12 will represent a month of the year. We tend to think of time and events in terms of our own personal history or the history of the nation in which we reside. But of course, there are women everywhere living out their day to day life all over the world, with hopes, dreams, fears , relationships. Our situations and struggles are very different, but were we in some alternate reality all given a chance to meet, I suspect we would find some surprising similarities, maybe more than we ever expected. The title of each piece starts with the month it represents, followed by “She Is _______”. The figure in this piece quite literally has “the world on her shoulders” through the pattern on her clothing, much like the mythic Atlas. Atlas the physical object is also defined as a book of maps or charts, and can signify one feeling that they alone must have all the directions and answers to all of the world’s problems, a grand and impossible responsibility.

The exposed heart necklace represents empathy, an open heart waiting to be wounded , left unprotected and raw. She leans against a bulls-eye wall, surrounded by an outline of thrown knives, a target girl like in the well known circus act. With each act of injustice and malice directed at others, she feels as if she is standing in their place, each offense a knife thrown at her, just missing. Though fearful, her face is strong and even. I’ve written before about how compassion and empathy does not equal weakness. To stick one’s head in the sand and be ignorant of the world’s ills is weakness; foolish, avoidant, and selfish.

Another way the subject can be viewed is not as the empathizer but as the victim. Some people are born into situations that are so difficult, living day to day is much like standing against a target with knives being thrown at them. It can be their geographic location, their income, the people that surround them or lack thereof, and the list goes on. Though yes, our personal choices certainly can influence outcomes, isn’t so much of life like a gigantic, living lottery when you think about it? Yet we shake our heads and wag our fingers when we see people who are struggling both around us and abroad, because certainly they must have done something wrong or things would look different? This way of thinking frees us of the responsibility to help others, and gives us a false sense of power that by doing certain things we can be 100% sure we attain the exact sort of life that we want. It all goes back to empathy and control.

One of the things I love about art is the way people can discern completely different meanings from a piece based on their own thoughts and experiences. Did something different strike you as you looked at this piece, did it remind you of something? Please share, don’t be shy!

 

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Art Discussion – “God As The Artist”

I have always loved paper dolls, although they were a bit hard to find already even when I was young. I used to get American Girl Magazine in the mail, and each issue would come with a set of punch-out paper dolls based on REAL girls, with an outfit from present day as well as 3 more from women 1,2, and 3 generations back in her family. The dolls were my absolute favorite part, and I really wish I would have kept them now. The American Girl paper doll sets were the only ones I really played with, because more than just the different outfits to try on, I was captivated by all of the different PEOPLE!

This brings me back … I definitely had this one – along with near 50 others.

I would lay them all out and marvel over all of the differences – in build, in facial structure, hair color, skin color, eye color, smile … and no two people look exactly alike, even twins; how can this be? It blew my little 8-year-old mind.

Fast forward about a decade and a half later, and I got this crazy idea – what if I made a paper doll in which the “doll” was a skeletal structure and the “clothes” were the skin that goes over them? I adore detailing internal structures of both humans and animals. I swear if computers were never invented and they still needed people to hand draw the illustrations for medical textbooks, I would be your girl (then again, I would not be typing this blog either. No lie, I love technology. Goodbye obscure dream career, definitely worth the tradeoff.).

"God As The Artist"; bristol board, ink, acrylic, corrugated cardboard

“God As The Artist”; bristol board, ink, acrylic, corrugated cardboard

At first this was just something quick I was going to do for fun for myself, but then I had to stop and think about why I was so excited about this idea. Both human beings and animals truly are moving, breathing works of art. They are living sculptures, filled with beautiful angles, textures and colors, and intricacies. We tend to idealize one type of beauty and overlook the artistry in anything that lies outside of that predetermined, narrow field. You would never walk into a gallery and say “My favorite color is violet, so I’m only going to look at the violet paintings. Any others, no matter how interesting or skillfully rendered, are completely worthless.” Yet how often do we write off other people in this same way?

Back view, depicted as a wall in an abandoned house complete with skeletal themed artwork and wallpaper print, "We are all living sculptures"

Back view, depicted as a wall in an abandoned house complete with skeletal themed artwork and wallpaper print, “We are all living sculptures”

"God As The Artist" aerial view

“God As The Artist” aerial view

I decided to include animals as well, because I really think we don’t have enough awe for how amazing they actually are. We get pumped about the unfamiliar and exotic, like lions and tigers at a zoo, but neglect to equally appreciate those living in our own backyards. In general, we kind of only notice animals when we need them for something, otherwise they are either an annoyance or just part of the furniture. I challenge you to go out for a walk on a nice day and pretend you are an alien from another planet who has never seen earth and its creatures before. Then really look, especially at the birds. Think of how tiny their skeletal system is, how it must interlock so that the framework of their wings can move as they need to in order to ascend into the air. Look at the colors and textures of their feathers. If that isn’t art, I don’t know what is. I guess that’s why I’ve never been one for hunting. There are increasingly less beautiful things in this world, why would you want to destroy something beautiful?

We are the most complex kinetic sculptures ever formed, and being alive surrounded by all this living and breathing wonder truly is a privilege. I forget that sometimes; we all do.

I still love drawing paper dolls for people to play with. Maybe every grown-up feels this way, but I’ve noticed that dolls, and the so-called “girl” sections in toy stores in general, kind of suck now. If I’m going to complain, I suppose I also have to do something about it! Since kids aren’t likely to play with skeletons, and also this crazy awkward giggling thing tends to happen when they are confronted with things like “boobs”, I have made many more child friendly sets since this one. I have two types of sets, one in which each girl has an “aspiration” theme (athlete, artist, chef, scientist …) and a pet, and another fantasy hero set in which your girl can save the world in various time periods and universes, from an imaginary world where superpowers exist to medieval Europe (Upon watching me draw the fantasy outfits, my boyfriend commented in surprise, “A girl knight?” and I swear to god, I almost clocked him. Exactly the kind of preconceptions I am trying to combat here ^_^.) Basically, I want to represent a wide variety of girls with a wide variety of personalities, styles, interests, talents, and dreams. I’m not done yet; as I touched on earlier, there are innumerable different types of people, that’s what’s so cool! But I’m working on it.

Zooey and Genesis Paper Doll Set

Zooey and Genesis Paper Doll Set

Fantasy Hero Layla Paper Doll Set

Fantasy Hero Layla Paper Doll Set

These paper doll sets and many more are available in my ebay store and etsy shop. If there’s a set you’d like to see, let me know! I take suggestions.