Week 15: Rebirth

Can you believe it?!  I’m all caught up on this challenge!  Who’d a thunk that while amidst the planning of finals and and completing projects that this would be the time I caught up, but here I am.  And I couldn’t be happier to be caught up with a different theme or photo.

Rebirth.  It can mean so many different things in so many different contexts.  It’s a word that has had a particular significance to me over the past two years, so I’m always happy to do some work surrounding this theme.  And even better, it coincided with a project that I was competing for class.  You know I love it when I can hit two birds with one stone!

The project that we had for class surrounded the idea of “constructed reality”, or tableau photography — creating a scene, world, scenario which does not occur naturally, but in a strange way, could possibly happen.  Playing with the border between truth and fiction.  That’s the best explanation I can give for this, because honestly, I had a terrible time thinking of something to do for this project.  The examples my professor gave the class were vast, which was equally helpful and harmful.  Just as I thought I was getting a grasp on what he was asking for, a whole other group of artists would come up which were completely different, and I would be thrown off again.  Don’t get me wrong, I always appreciate the broad overview of example artists he shows us — they have amazing work.  Some of my favorites, which you should go check out, were Duane Michaels, David Hockney, and (this one’s a little creepy) Joel-Peter Witkin.  Three very different styles, three very different conceptual minds, and three equally awesome artists.  So, in wanting to emulate all of them, and not sure how one single idea could encompass that and the parameters of the assignment, I was stuck.

The night before I had to bring in “progress”, I still had nothing.  All day during my classes I was trying to think of something to do for the next day.  I had a bunch of ideas, but nothing feasible this short notice.  Ah, the blight of wanting models in my photographs.  So I dug a little deeper, and this idea came to me, finally.  It was actually something that I had thought of during one of my film photography classes, but for some reason, filed it away in my “will probably never happen” group of photography ideas.  I’m really glad I decided to drudge it up and give it a try.

This whole idea started when I first returned back to school, and was debating leaving my old job and finding something that would actually make me happy.  I wish I could say it was at one of my hardest times, and that things got better from there, but I’m just now starting the incline again.  Even then, however, I would dream about how great life could be, and what it would feel like to let all the stress and drama of my then current life behind.  Flowers and nature have always seemed like a great avenue for me to express a lot of complex ideas, and this project made good use of that.  In correlation with this feeling of wanting a new life, and now revisiting it from a perspective of “rebirth”, along with having gone through some major changes, I wanted to be able to express both the pain and beauty in changes simultaneously.

Although it may be a little unsettling to look at, I really am in love with the result I achieved.  I needed something visceral, raw, an essentially disgusting, to really describe how difficult things have been.  On the other hand, I was dreaming of a new, beautiful life, and since then, have made large strides to work towards it, and wanted an element which would exemplify that sentiment as well.  I chose to place the wound (which was incredibly, surprisingly, easy to make) on my wrist.  I think location is meaningful in itself, as many associate this type of wound with self-harm, and in a sense, living the life I was living was doing exactly that, killing me.  The flower that I chose, Star of Bethlehem, though possessing religious connotations which I didn’t not directly relate to this project, represents all of the things that I imagine this new life, or rebirth, will bring.  Hope, for a better life.  Forgiveness, to myself for not doing this sooner.  Honesty, to stay true to myself.  Innocence and Purity, for all the good, new things, untainted by my previous life.

I love it, and I’m even more excited to keep working on this type of imagery.  I’ll be extending this work for my final, so maybe you’ll see a little more of this soon, ya know, if this doesn’t gross you out too much 😉

rebirth

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Week 27: Independence

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already made it this far through the year, and that I’m already past the half way point of this 52 week challenge.  I still have a couple to do from past weeks which I haven’t forgotten about, but for now, I’m just happy to be catching up on the few weeks I’ve recently messed up on!

Independence is the topic for this week.  It’s an interesting topic, and can have different meanings to different people.  With the 4th of July just this past weekend, I’m sure the idea of independence comes to mind with a much more patriotic meaning for a large amount of people.  For me, however, independence has always brought a different feeling to mind.

I’ve always liked being on my own, being able to be myself, and not having to answer to anyone.  I moved out when I was just 18, and haven’t really looked back.  Though over the years this has been limited, I’ve tried to express myself the best I could while still abiding to the confines of the corporate world, and trying to be what many perceive as “a responsible adult”.    I know you all have heard me talk about how crazy things have been lately, and I suppose I should break it down to you, as it really all comes down to one thing; my independence has been cut off.  Yes, it’s true, I suppose the pay check of my (terrible) job was one, if not it’s only, perk, because now I’m out of resources and options.  I’ve moved back in with family, and don’t really see the option to pursue my educational and artistic dreams.  I’ve been accepted to MICA, a school I’ve always dreamed of going to, and have received 90% of the tuition in scholarships, grants, and loans, but am being suffocated by the fact that I cannot come up with the other 10%.  And the icing on the cake — I can’t find a job to save my life!  Everyone looks at me like I have three heads when I tell them I left my tenured management position in banking to pursue an art degree, and am willing to take a considerable pay cut to work at their company.  I know, stay positive.  I know, everything will happen the way it’s supposed to.  But it’s been pretty difficult to stay positive when I start thinking that the “way things are supposed to be” may end up being the exact opposite of how I’ve always wished they would be.

Yes, I know I’m lucky, as many have told me, to have family that will help me while I’m in need, but at the same time, this help comes with a lot of hurt.  I know my family loves me, I love them too, but we have an interesting relationship, much of which revolves around them not understanding me and wanting me to change.  Ah, yes, the sounds of teenage angst coming back — “parents just don’t understand!”.  It sounds silly, I know, but that’s always been our relationship (and you can throw my brother, aunt and grandmother in there, too), and it saddens me to see just how unwilling they are to see things from a different perspective.  Over the years I’ve been through quite a bit, professionally and personally, but one thing that I’m glad I’ve learned is how to see things from another perspective, and to gain information about situations before making a judgement.  They’re quite the opposite.  How I should be, feel, think, and grow in this world is made up in their minds, and that is where we will always clash.  My deviation from what they expect is what angers them, and my desires to do things which seem illogical to them, because it is the only way for me, is where they find me irresponsible and immature.  Independence.  It’s really an interesting word.  In a world, like mine, where family so strongly influences what you do, it can be a difficult thing to achieve, particularly when you need their support for things they find foolish.  They’re practically begging me to give up going to MICA, find a regular job, and just be happy doing art as a hobby.  I’m out of ways to tell them that going back to that life would most likely kill me…  Gasping for air to get out of the dark waters which were that life took so much energy, effort, and bravery that I didn’t think I had, I don’t know if I could do it again.

When I was in my very first class, on the very first night, of my very first semester in returning to school, we were instructed by my photography teacher to fill out a little card with our information on it.  Half information about who we were, and half one of those typical introduce yourself to the group type exercises.  One of the questions was to select which animal best describes you, and why.  Most people have something fierce, like a lion, or a hawk, showing their bravery, strength, and confidence.  Questions like this always throw me for a loop, so I had to spend most of my time thinking of how to select an appropriate animal.  I know, it’s a silly introduction, who cares?  But I always put too much thought in to these things…maybe because I remember situations like this three years later.  Anyways, after much deliberation, I came up with what I still think is the most accurate animal to describe me, and why.  A bird.  At that time, I was nearing the worst part of my professional career, and my head was filled with ideas of a great escape, and how grand life would be in just a few short years.  So when I selected the bird as my “spirit animal” so to say, there was really only one reason that I could think of as to why it was so fitting for my personality.  I could fly.  I would have the ability to be free, and escape to a new place any time I wanted to.  Independence.  No more confinement, no more restriction.  I was trapped in a world where I dreaded waking up in the morning, and I wanted nothing more than to escape.  I didn’t know it then, but going to school and incorporating that artistic outlet in my life at that time would be what really saved me, and helped me keep what little sanity I had at the end of it all.

Waking up nearly three years later and seeing how things have changed, I’m glad that I took the chances that I did, and have started down the path I have.  I’m also terrified that it was all in vain and that it’s steadily coming to an end.  I have people watching my every move and judging my every decision in ways that I haven’t experienced in over a decade, and to be honest, it’s a little terrifying.

This past weekend, though it may have been Independence day, was more like anti-independence day to me.  I had my move on Friday of last week, and had to say goodbye to my life of freedom.  I suppose the only small glimmer in that was that it was the holiday weekend, and I got to have a mini escape to the beach.  There truly is nothing better than being there, to me.  I could go there penniless, and would still have an immeasurable amount of happiness, serenity, and relaxation.  It really couldn’t have come at a better time.  So while I was there, I stopped to take a few pictures of my favorite places, as well as made time to visit places that I’ve always wanted to shoot, but never made the time for.  Of course, there were my birds, flying free in the ocean air.  Admiring them over a landscape which seems endless it really something I find hard to describe.  It’s cathartic — I could just stay out there forever, watching them, and whatever else may come by.  Even though I may not be “free” anymore, being in an environment like that really sets my mind free.  When it’s normally racing with thoughts of what I could have done differently, what people are going to think about me, what I should and should not be doing, there’s quiet.  When I look out in to the vast openness of the ocean, it’s like anything is possible, and anything could be just around the horizon.  It’s the only place where there is freedom from the confines of my mind, while watching nature, feeling the sand between my toes, and admiring my spirit animal, in its many different forms.