Date of Submission

Spring 2012

Academic Program

Studio Arts

Project Advisor 1

Judy Pfaff

Abstract/Artist's Statement

There’s an appeal, destroying something you can’t replace. When it became clear that the fabric of a particular dress, laden with personal significance, was needed for this piece, I did not hesitate with my scissors. What I abandon and what I carry on my back, what matter I’ve inscribed with meaning and the irrational circularity with which I have done so. Nothing is precious, some things are sacred, and everything’s trash. Cliché, irony, preposterous, give myself a nosebleed trying to be an effortless fool. They are giving me anxiety. Even if A squared times B squared is C squared, something crooked hangs. Giving myself hickeys, trying on wedding dresses—indulging the perversity of such gestures in isolation as both an attempt at reappropriation and a narcissistic celebration of bodily recklessness.

When I make this kind of work, there’s a specificity to it, it’s about a fall into love, and a fall out if it, it about knees bruised from the difficulty of walking and it’s about Eve in the Garden. Why certain intersections of color recall the first time I let a man use violence to make a point and why others do not. In a way, there are characters, retellings of people I know and myself relative to them—but I also think broadly about rendering tactile the melodrama of existence, and I don’t use that word, melodrama, pejoratively. There’s an apocalypticism to these pieces that’s one part trope, one part superstition, and one part self-absorption. The sheer bulk of materials used in this installation is intended both as a parody of romantic excess and an exaltation of it. The objects used are largely personal relics, accumulated with purpose and displayed with esotericism. It is one thing to be shaped by great forces, dragged along by the current of history to a moment of profound revelation, and it is quite another to sense those great forces barreling past at the periphery of your vision.

I focused upon wedding imagery because of what subversions of its cliché gravitas recalled. This piece makes great use in the trope of Miss Havisham, rejected, incapable of forward progress, rotting in her faded lace. The Insult is Brevity, the installation’s title, is straightforward here—the impact of assigning such importance to one particular day clearly effects all others. My title refers also to the insult of site-specific installation art, the brevity of its existence versus the expanse of time put into its creation. Furthermore, the insult here is a personal one—the bristling offense taken at the recognition this work is in no small part a response to the instant of trauma. The monuments built here are not to gods or to devils, but to flashes of disassociated memory, recalled inappropriately when I’d prefer them forgotten.

The insult is their brevity, the perceived ease with which others accomplish things versus how I go about achieving them. There is exhaustion in this project. I do not have the technical skills a sculpture of this scale generally requires—that difficulty is important conceptually and visually. Where objects reveal their faulty construction, I see the fantasy of myself as a simpler woman, equipped with the right tools and words and jokes. I cannot understand folding laundry, safety pins organized by size is wonderment, chaos is domestic memory, it is halved, halving, the process of disassembling and understanding, before gaping chest, that no autopsy will not console.

I’m obsessed with the spaces we construct to define ourselves, physically and emotionally. I’m equally obsessed with spaces constructed for us. I think about really shitty TV. The way a teen girl’s bedroom looks in primetime, versus the way my own looked growing up. How I found myself missing the carefully arranged photographs of “friends” I didn’t have—even as I realized this sentiment’s absurdity. It’s a special kind of privilege that seeks tragedy, scavenges for incomplete, loss worn as High Art transcending postmodern. Not nostalgia for reality vague but aching for something someone held before. The specificity of past desired is the romance I’m deconstructing. The first act: the first moment, insubstantial. Next one too, infinite lifetime before names are cellular memory, contours exacting imprecise a great whoosh of gradual conquest, absolution coming careless, parallax, love-drunk, painting the ceiling, the scenery, the view from my back. Love as a neck strength contest no one will win.

For what it was, really, the perversity of missing it, it never was a thing. Place might have been, role might have filled, the narrative crafted when that was easier, did not end they never began, pure contrivance bled spontaneous out to recognition: there will never be a grave.

It wasn’t a courtship but I felt it.

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