Friday, November 21, 2008

Lost and Found

These self-portraits are all part of an etching series that I created in the first semester of my senior year at MECA. I was inspired by Jim Dine's series titled Nancy Outside in July; etching portraits of his wife. I thought I had lost this body of work and was very glad to find the portfolio where I stashed it away 2 years ago when I cleaned my studio this fall.

Orlan accomplishes extreme transformation of her image by going under the knife. I prefer to throw my copper etched image into an acid bath and set the timer! Either way, we both come up with wild variations on the self-portrait. Orlan's political self-portraits speak about culturally prescribed beauty and the lengths that women will go to fit into those dictated formulas. My self-portraits are about more personal experience.

This particular series has quite a bit of dream imagery involved. When I first exhibited these etchings, I showed 17 of them. I also showed a small journal with many of my dreams along with the etchings. I put this little handmade journal on a table - I even sewed a small table cloth and embroidered a hummingbird and some flowers on the border. I was attempting to make a sort of shrine - something to lead into the prints and show my gratefulness to my dreams, because I believe that they are a connection to spirit.

I know that conceptually this was not very cohesive. The table had a vase of flowers from my garden as well, and really looked more like a table in a gallery where people can sign the guest book and write comments, rather than a shrine, or an extension of the exhibit. OK, I got that feedback in my crit, and I understand that now. But one comment from a professor at my crit really confused and upset me. This teacher said about my work, "There's a nauseating generosity to it."

I still don't know what this means, but at the time I felt alot of shame and anger. Did it mean that there were too many? Was the journal and table over the top? Was my work too personal? In my work, especially my self-portraits, I do share at a very personal level. This is how I connect to spirit - internally and externally. I believe that in sharing my stories, I encourage others to open and do the same. I believe that our stories are important, and in telling them, we get a bit of healthy distance from ourselves - we can see that we are all part of a great network, with common experiences.
Bottom Line: Art is a powerful vehicle for fostering community and spiritual connection .


Captain Nick Sparrow said...

I don't think I've ever heard "nauseating" and "generosity" used in conjunction before.

I wish I got to see it all on display, and that she wasn't so rude.

Martha Miller said...

Thanks, Captain! Yes, those two words together remind of the worst dessert I've ever tasted. My husband and I go to an annual garlic festival, and one year we tried the chocolate coated garlic cloves (which had been poached in some sort of flavored liquour...) Eww... in my opinion, those two flavors - garlic & chocolate - do not belong in the mouth at the same time!