Kenyon Class of ’15, Studio Art and Anthropology double major
“The work is completed when the anxiety has disappeared.
That is the proof of its success.”
– Louise Bourgeois
Ever since I was a young girl, taking long drives with my parents has been one of my methods for coping with anxiety. For many, anxiety is an ever-consuming entity that becomes part of everyday life. It can be paralyzing, numbing, chaotic, and overwhelming: it shuts me down. However, these feelings slowly disappear with car rides as the motion of the road permits me a gentle access back into reality. This experience of anxiety and relief become the inspiration for my work
These sculptural photographic pieces are created with cutout shapes of abstract drawings I have made using the swaying motion of the car while I am taking a drive with friends or family. With images of highways and roadways cut into the shape of the drawings, eventually only a few details of the photograph make it into the final piece. By combining and layering these cutouts into complex shapes, these pieces become a blend of the confusing and overwhelming nature of anxiety with glimpses and trails of reality. With the addition of light to create intricate shadows that disrupt the already fragmented imagery, I attempt to push the disorienting and disruptive nature of anxiety and how coping mechanisms sometimes offer only brief moments of clarity before one might become lost in the chaos of panic once again.
By using black and white photographs instead of plain paper as the base of my cutouts, I am able to give the sense of reality in the final pieces so it becomes harder to just see them as sculptures but as a narrative. For some, these pieces might capture the tightening feeling of anxiety and how it separates them from reality; others might read these as liberating and a return to reality; there is no right answer, but the use of photographs grounds these pieces as abstractions of the real world, allowing them to be read any way the viewer desires. Using photography also allows me to push the boundaries of what photography is traditionally known to do by taking a 2D form and transforming it into 3D sculpture. Additionally, projections from the spotlights onto these abstracted photographs allows for shadows to become an entity of their own. The shadows create new and oppressive shapes beyond the sculptural image on the wall, therefore further pushing the overwhelming and disorienting concept of anxiety in these pieces.
The experience of creating these pieces has allowed me the opportunity to reclaim anxiety. No longer is it an abstracted feeling inside of me, but a visual form that I can manipulate and control. My hopes are that the audience views these pieces as an opportunity to reflect on their own understandings and experiences with anxiety, as seeing anxiety in a form we can all control can be both comforting and liberating.
–Claire Popovich, ‘15