Kenyon Class of ’14, Studio Art major
“She learned to tell time with her skin,”
– Barbra Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer
I often work out of immediacy, an itching in my muscles representing a dire need to make emotion into action and action into art; but I’ve spent this past year developing a painful practice of destroying my art – building, burning and rebuilding each piece. Thus, a great deal of this work hinges on this process. The way I engage with charcoal, working them into each other, into the paper and erasing with directional intent acts more like a molding process akin to sculpture than a drawing process. The repetitive nature of these motions rubbed my fingers raw, and I found myself pressing my skin into the fiber of the paper and the dust of the deep shadows as I worked to blend or erase, digging my hands into their temporality. As I shed these drawings like skin, I collected the refuse as a monument to the movement of time and the build up of neglected suffering this piece addresses.
This series offers a reflection on my own experience grappling with the struggles of a panic disorder and attention deficit disorder in the face of a system that still relies heavily on stereotypical information about mental health issues. Discovering my relationship with a sense of self and others while dealing with daily stigmatization of my struggles was one of the most alienating and ostracizing experiences of my life.
However, I quickly discovered many people around me willing to share similar stories of difficulties and invalidation, and to offer advice on how to function with what we had within the system. Depicting portraits of individuals who associate with this concept as well as self-portraits, this body of work attempts to grasp at the personal and communal fight involved in both the self-dismissal and the societal dismissal. To this end I employed an erasure process that, although primarily reductive, intrinsically becomes cumulative through the layering of the erased drawings, much like the build up of memory, experience and time. The twinges of distress involved in essentially destroying my art recreates for myself as the artist and for the viewer the pain associated with this collective sense of ostracism. The video provides an archive and visualization for the audience of this process.
– Elise Economy, ‘14