Artist Statement: Rachel Brown '20
My exhibition is a commentary on female self-identity, and what it means to be a woman in American society. My pieces show the line between frailty and obstruction of the female psyche, the way women are seen as either too delicate or too strong. I have quieted myself to make others feel more comfortable, but it was not until last year when I realized that I didn’t want to be silenced by society anymore. This exhibition is a way of looking back on how I felt when I didn’t know who I was or who I wanted to be. I chose to do a contemporary black and white exhibit using photography, and sculpture.
The first pieces I produced inspired my exhibit are my series of encaustic photographs titled, “Elusive Gestures (1-5).” Rather than printing traditional prints, I found that encaustic, which uses a layer of wax and demar resin to coat the image, to be far more meaningful and elegant. The wax entraps the women, as society does, to be perfect. These images conceal the models face because women are classified by their bodies, which inherently makes women want to look a certain way which impacts their self-identity. I also made a series of three large prints titled, “Fleeting Identity.”
I made these prints by using darkroom techniques of only partially developing the photograph by dripping developer onto the paper. These large prints serve as imagery of women mentally deteriorating or melting away due to societal standards put onto them. These contrast the encaustic photographs because I chose to expose their emotions rather than intentionally hiding them. I also have a triptych, titled “Feminine Artefacts” which is filled with doll parts, shoes, and dresses.
I decided to use these dolls because I believe that this is where a lot of people’s issues with self-identity stem from, the stereotypical Barbie doll. I decided to spray everything in this triptych beige solely for aesthetic purposes. Having these limbs trapped inside of a glass box represents how women feel, trapped by society, made to play a certain role in life, and unable to get out of it.
Next, I sculpted wax high heels in a series of them slowly melting away titled, “Progression of Clarity.” I chose to use these heels because they are a stereotypical object that identifies women. By having them melting away, I was envisioning a world where stereotypes melt away so women no longer feel constrained by them. Women often feel pressured to wear shoes such as heels to present themselves as more feminine when in reality society is molding a woman’s self-identity to be conformed and conservative.
Above these shoes there are three mirrors, each frosted so the viewer cannot fully see their own face. This is an interactive part of my exhibit, where I think the topic of struggling with self-identity really comes through, because the audience cannot see themselves. The image of themselves is fogged, much like women who feel like they must make themselves something they aren’t solely for societies benefit. I made plaster casted hands titled, “Entangled,” with broken pearls to represent the breaking of societal constraints to allow for freedom of the female mind and body.
I arranged this exhibit amongst three walls, interwoven with my sculptural art. I wanted to begin with large prints because the use of dripping developer draws the viewer into the exhibit. Then you are faced with an interactive piece where you have to engage the piece to understand it which moves you to the encaustics which are more gestural pieces but still continue to carry the same flow. Moving to, “Entangled,” it is a more static gesture than the encaustic but echoes these gestures.
Then I chose the triptych to end with, to finish with feminine artifacts being encased, like the plaster hands, to show entrapment of the female spirit. This exhibition shows that although someone may be presented on the outside as being poised and put together that they could be struggling with self-identity, especially women in a world where they are forced to conform to societal standards that may not show who they really are.