Body Bag, Remnants from Performance, Oil stick, Glassine, Graphite, Trash Bags, 2021.
By using my body as a printmaking press, there is an engagement with the psyche that reinforces practice as discipline. Process heavy and physically demanding disciplines have always appealed to me as an artist, and it wasn’t until recently that I recognized that my physical body is instrumental in my art practice. I crave movement and process, as this can be seen in other areas of my life. Outside of the studio, I am a high-level competitive beach volleyball athlete, dedicated yogi, and avid hiker and trail runner. Movement is essential to my life, and there is an obvious overlap in my practice. This idea of body-as-press is another layer in my heavily layered practice, and I seek to reveal what my subconscious mind has been pinging me for years. What is my body trying to print? A specific mark has repeatedly found itself in my work over the years, and my body continues to pull this motif through my body/press. There is a theory that trauma and memory are imprinted into the body, and if this is the case, I believe that my subconscious mind is attempting to shed the stories and memories that have been imprinted in my physical being. Bessel van der Kolk, M.D states in the book, The Body Keeps the Score:
"We have also begun to understand how overwhelming experiences affect our innermost sensations and our relationships to our physical reality – the core of who we are. We have learned that trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past, it is also the imprint left on that experience on the mind, brain, and body. This imprint has ongoing consequences for how the human organism manages to survive in the present. Trauma results in a fundamental reorganization of the way [the] mind and body reorganize perceptions (21)."
The damage from an abusive relationship that I survived between the ages of 19 and 21 and years of disordered eating–both my own doing, bulimia, and outside of my control, celiac disease–permanently imprinted my body. I believe that my mind and body has attempted to reorganize my perceptions of myself and the world due to this. My innate desire to physically feel materials, choose process-heavy mediums, and repeatedly mark substrates is an attempt to reconnect my mind and body in order to heal.
This can be seen in Body Bag from 2021. For this project, I began to think about opening up and challenging the memories that are held within my own body. I have a long history of bulimia and body dysmorphia. How I view and understand my body is inaccurate and skewed. Years ago, my therapist instructed me to get on the floor and trace my body in order to see a concrete representation of what really existed instead of what my mind saw in the mirror. Borrowing from this lesson, I invited a stranger into my studio to trace my body. Afterwards, I used an oil stick and graphite pencil to fill the glassine roll with repetitive marks. Glassine is traditionally used to protect artwork in transportation and storage, but I challenged the material and gave it new meaning by using it as a substrate and filling it with marks. In a previous project from 2020, I completely destroyed a roll of glassine by cutting repetitive gouges in the material. If the glassine is intended to protect an artwork, which essentially is an idea, then the idea is compromised as it is no longer shielded from the elements. A goal in Body Bag was to have agency over my narrative, so by adding marks to the protective material instead of gouges, I am able to add to my narrative. I don’t sacrifice my story from what is around me, I can build on it and reconstruct it. An edition of old memories and new experiences were created as I pulled the marks from my press–my physical body and psyche. The experience was emotional, but also liberating. At the end of my performance, I used a trash bag to clean up my hands from the mess, tied it off, and released it from me.
What does body-as-press actually mean? And what is the significance of the term and function in my practice? The printing press is a very process heavy machine that acts as an agent of power. Throughout history, the press allowed for information to become freely shared through mass reproduction and encouraged freedom of expression and information that would have otherwise been impossible. This is comparable to the engagement with my narrative and psyche in my practice. The stories shared through editions–-the repetitive marks found throughout my work–that I create could not be possible without being processed through the body/press. This body-as-press analogy is the apparatus that allows for my art to form. Memories and trauma are stored in the body, and by using my physical body, I am able to access, print, and share them.
As I filled the roll of glassine with marks, I was able to print my own narrative with my body/press. As my hands dirtied, I used bags to clean them. Afterwards, I tied the bags up and discarded them as I worked through the scroll-like substrate.