Marking and Pressing
My early memories of fitting into clothing correspond to elementary school penmanship lessons. I recall my small hand holding a writing tool and striving to create the predetermined shapes of alphabet letters.
In his essay, Non Multa, Sed Multum, Roland Barthes distinguishes between Cy Twombly’s work and the art of children when he states, “a child applies himself, presses carefully, rounds things out, sticks out his tongue; it’s hard work to adapt oneself to the code of grown-ups.” It is that determination that I seek to capture in Perfection Series. This collection of drawings explores this struggle for control and accuracy with the body, as well as within it. Produced on manila paper with oil pastel, and showing cross-outs, erasures and repetition, these works are a metaphor for how the body is shaped and formed to write, draw and be.
Similarly, Baby Writing Practice, captures the quest for a correct form. Newsprint with blue guidelines grounds these investigations within the structured framework of elementary school learning. It is in these exercises though, that the image of the baby is introduced. Embryonic figures tumble across the page through letters, arrows and checkmarks. In this pictographic alphabet of growth, the babies are tallied and subtracted, and merged with external forms of houses, waves and spheres.
Akin to these two mark-making series are the folded paper prints of babies, Mini Symmetrical Studies of Babies. Informed by an art-making experience with children, these pieces were created in Rorschach inkblot style; I painted half the figure and allowed the other side to form from the compression of the paper. I was interested in how distortions that occurred in the process expressed the utter discomfort in a newborn’s body. As the paint dried on the paper, the sheets curled up like the actions of infants raising their legs toward their bellies. Struggling to operate their new bodies, the babies turn red and purple, almost bursting. Marlene Dumas’ large scale paintings of newborns emphasize these characteristic movements as well. While Dumas’ babies are disturbingly oversized (nearing six feet tall), I am interested in the discomfort produced by the miniaturized forms. My prints call to mind tiny trampled creatures, vulnerable and exposed, and often ignored.
The physicality of these two processes, marking and pressing, reflects aggressive acts inflicted against the body, further reiterating the scarring metaphor found in both A Fitting Experience and My Fitting Experience. Integrating these exercises into my practice provided fertile ground for further exploration into self-portrait and the body.