Kenyon Class of ’14, Studio Art major
When I create art, I can practically hear the swords colliding inside my head, for two very different aspects of my personality battle for control as I work. My anxious, perfectionist sensibilities desire a linear plan in which I can take comfort ahead of time, while my imaginative, unpredictable side craves a more flexible process that facilitates spontaneity. When these two parts of me clash, they yield unpredictable results; sometimes they work very well together, while other times they lead me to ruin what I’ve started. When my art fails, it seems as though I am sabotaging myself; what I cannot always tell, however, is where I went wrong.
I decided to address the possibility of self-sabotage and artistic failure by depicting a fantasy style battle in which I am simultaneously a protagonist and antagonist. My protagonist self, wielding a massive war hammer, leads a small army of fantasy characters into battle, but a mysterious masked figure, revealed to be her evil doppelganger, shows up with every intention of thwarting her plans. One by one her allies fall, and eventually she must take on her dark twin alone. The final image shows the protagonist rushing her nemesis head on; it captures the final moment before the two figures collide. I chose an ambiguous ending because in terms of the artistic process, the battle is not over. I believe it is not entirely up to me to decide whether or not my work is successful. It is up to my audience to determine my fate, both within the narrative and as an artist.
I want my photographs to be an aesthetic interpretation of my artistic mind; I work with a camera because, in photographing reality, I can pull abstract concepts into real life. I then use fantastical subject matter because the mind is a melting pot of thoughts and experiences, not bound by reality. To channel this, I include many elements that have influenced my artistic sensibilities: characters in video games, music videos, and fantasy movies, for example, inspire the figures, while Baroque art influences the poses and lighting. One of my favorite contemporary artists, Lori Nix, works with dioramas, and her vibrant depictions of dystopian settings have also influenced my work, including my decision to set the narrative on top of model train landscapes. These landforms, carefully shaped by my own hands, represent my desire to assert control in my artwork, a control I seem have trouble maintaining in spite of my efforts. The pristine model trees provide a tense backdrop for the chaos unfolding in front of them; I believe that the union of these playful landscapes, epic conflicts, and varied artistic influences lends a unique aesthetic to my art.
In my work, I hope to address artistic failure without failing in the process. I am, after all, still subject to the struggles I am trying to illustrate. At the moment I am inches from triumph, my weapon poised for the killing blow. I wait in anticipation, frozen in time, for now it is up to my audience to decide whether or not I am victorious.
– Kelsey Rice, ‘14