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The work displayed here is a collection of many things from this year. The installation of the work, as well as the pieces themselves, were new processes to me. These experimental and largely photographic prints are very different from other work that I’ve made at Bard. In the past, I spent a lot of time mastering processes of drawing, painting and printmaking, mostly based on building skills and rendering images from life. Although I immersed myself in learning new processes here as well, my current work feels more important to me because I don’t have a scale or measure to know that it is “good,” “bad” or “finished.” In this work, I tried to merge my sense of aesthetics with concepts, which was new and uncomfortable for me.
This year I was motivated by parts of myself that are hard to talk to about and explain. Although I felt inspiration from my life, initially I didn’t want to make public art about it. This was a paradox. These are the parts of my life that only I know- my secrets, my family, my experience. I kept coming back to this “personal” imagery, although it made me feel vulnerable. However, more importantly in the end, it was honest.
In Senior Seminar, we visited the studio of the artist Joan Snyder. She told us that she is often inspired by events in her life that are painful or uncomfortable. I asked her how she dealt with the vulnerability of presenting this kind of work to an audience. She told me that at some point she realized that nobody really knew what her work was about. A viewer can only relate to her work through their own experiences or speculation, no matter how clear or obvious it may have seemed to her. This idea set me free.
Once I embraced this concept, I started to play with the idea that maybe any given viewer wouldn’t know the origin of a piece. I built a language based on symbolic imagery. In my big blueprint piece, every line has meaning and symbolism to me, although it is intentionally enigmatic. Crucially, however, I don’t intend for this to alienate anyone from the work. Rather I mean it most honestly, as the only way that I could let myself go and confront my history. My hope is that emotions and thoughts are conveyed in the intention of this work, even if a viewer experiences or understands it in a different way.
This work is not a statement about life, art, photography or women, although I was mindful of all those things. It’s really about me, as uncomfortable as that makes me. I don’t know that my own experiences are so different from those of any viewer. But even regardless of actual life experience, I hope that in it’s honesty and through some kind of collective experience, any viewer can connect with it or find beauty in it.
The title of my show, How I Got Here, refers to the ongoing process of building this project for me. I never had an image of what the final outcome would be. It also refers to a specific time and place, now and here. I hoped that my installation would create an environment of it’s own. Finally, the title refers to exploration and birth.
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Gui, Emily, "How I Got Here" (2012). Senior Projects Spring 2012. 303.
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