At the age of six my mother died of breast cancer. The development of my artwork centers around this early trauma of loss, its subsequent effects on my identity, and the pleasurable, habitual behavior to control objects. The materials and processes I use are deliberately chosen so that I can carefully manipulate, and assert power over them, thereby controlling my environment. I am comforted by this repetitive control, which seemingly combats the fear of the loss of control I have subconsciously felt since childhood. Consistently my works examine what lies within and between the boundaries of protection and threat, subject and object, isolation and intimacy, and reality and perception.
Inspired by intimate feminine forms connected to my childhood, I re-interpret patterns of lace or clusters of flowers into withering leaves or fragmented, melancholic faces. Then through the repetitive, meditative process of sawing and piercing the metal, I carefully manipulate these “fetishistic” objects to create masks. Paradoxically, the wearer of these masks is shrouded by the fetish object, hidden by the fears that I long to control and reveals an identity veiled in fear.
The theoretical basis of my work uses psychoanalyst, Louise Kaplan’s theory of the fetishism strategy and Sigmund Freud’s observation of the split of self, to connect the control of objects with a fascination of seemingly contradictory concepts. Most people associate fetishism with an overwhelming perversion in which the afflicted places uncontrollable sexual desire onto an inanimate object such as a shoe, foot, or type of clothing. While this is a specific type of fetishism, the fetishism strategy proposed by Louise Kaplan expands on these widely accepted views in an attempt to understand further associations with the fetish. For Kaplan, “Fetishism is a mental strategy or defense that enables a human being to transform something or someone with its own enigmatic energy and immaterial essence into something or someone that is material and tangibly real, a form of being that makes the something or someone controllable.”
Additionally, this repetitive manipulation of the “fetishistic” object uncovers a fascination of conflicting concepts, which allows both fact and fantasy, acceptance and denial to exist side by side. This dichotomy is evident in the very nature of the fetish. For Freud, the fetish acts as a memorial, indicating the point of loss, which it both masks and replaces. “The fetish, as the (material) presence of an absence, the memory of the traumatic event, ‘fails to lose touch with its original traumatic real and continues to refer back to the moment in time to which it bears witness, to its own historical dimension.” My own fears and desires that result from the trauma of losing my mother are simultaneously purged and held close through the artistic process. It is at once a loving embrace and mournful release.