By MICHELLE CHAMPLIN, student in the Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts MFA program
This post was written for Cindy Shearer's CIA 7712: MFA Project. In these blogs, students are sharing their discoveries, reflections and learning as they enter the process of creating a body of art work and culminate their degrees.
My MFA project currently consists of several self portraits. Through the process of creating these I am honing in on and exploring ways of articulating my personal experience and emotions. Through this work, I hope to convey not only these personal aspects, but a larger concept.
I’ve attempted to base most portraits around an emotion that I have felt or was feeling at the time of creating the piece. To avoid a kind of staged look, I attempt to take photos of myself while in the middle of a thought or feeling—not a simple task. I hold my camera comfortably while resting my arm on something and try to forget about the fact that I’m about to take a picture of myself. I am typically inspired to do this when I am feeling something—anxiety, sadness, joy, etc. However, sometimes I don’t feel any strong emotion. I’ve taken a few pictures of myself while meditating; I then choose a photo and draw it. Recently I’ve found myself drawing the portraits while listening to jazz.
I’ve discovered that many of the drawings resemble what I feel I look like when I feel emotion. When feeling anxiety, the lines are thick and hard and my face is somewhat distorted. To me, it appears to be holding a significant weight of some kind. The line quality varies greatly according to the way I am feeling when drawing these images.
Within the last couple of years, I’ve come to an interesting realization. Perhaps because of the trauma I experienced as a child, I’ve always kind of separated “good” experiences and “bad” experiences in my mind. I’m becoming more and more aware that I’ve labeled things as good and bad because of the emotions I’ve felt around specific experiences. Though life can be excruciating, everything just is. There are joyous parts of life and painful parts of life but they all exist within the same life. They are all a part of a whole—a whole that isn’t black and white.
Through this project I am exploring and expressing my perception of this whole. I feel that in its entirety it connects us as human beings. The joy, sadness, anxiety, peace, and neutrality all exist at once and the whole becomes a bit more neutral. I’ve begun layering images of the drawings on top of one another in Photoshop and have been playing with the opacity of each layer. I feel that these digital experiments create one image which incorporates numerous emotions. I’m excited to continue this work and to see where it takes me.