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One Shade Less Transparent: Catherine Higgins ’10
April 5, 2010 - May 28, 2010
Art Honors Thesis Exhibition
Artist Talk and Reception, Monday April 5 at 5:30 pm
Recently, I have been preoccupied with the struggle to define the self. I once held the prejudice that self-definition must be manifested in words; I viewed them as the basic building blocks of human interaction. However, in trying to define myself in words I came up tragically short. Labels rankle me with their inaccuracy. Even more detrimental to the process of self-definition is my unfailing quietness in the face of the unknown. Unknown people, unknown situations, unknowns of any variety seem to leave me wordless. Words are fleetingly and irritatingly imprecise; however, they are often taken as concrete and final. I bristle at the thought of others labeling me based on the inadequate words I use to elucidate one particular experience. As a result, I consciously shy away from words.
I choose, rather, to express myself in images. Images seem less final. Visual interpretations are often more flexible than linguistic ones. Flexible, in that the image can transcend it’s literal meaning allowing particulars to become diffuse. As a result, my art has given me the ability to work through emotionally heightened experiences that I have not been comfortable working through in any other way. The ambiguity, deriving from the abstract quality of the forms, has allowed me a method of self-expression buffered against the shackling of every emotion to simultaneously fickle and final words.
My art has developed as a reaction to my perception of the world as a continuously shifting, multi-layered entity. I focus on the struggle to reconcile the tension between the desire to define myself as an individual and the need to exist in a larger society. I have chosen to layer archetypal imagery with abstracted self-portraits to synthesize the personal and the collective. I developed a process of applying self-portraits over layers of background imagery. The portraits retain their individuality, darker in color and more solidly applied than the imagery below. However, the self is not an autonomous being and as such the printing of the self-portraits is never the final step. I finish by painting and stenciling pieces of the background over the portraiture, allowing the history of marks to become evident within them. The personal shapes the collective, which in turn reshapes the personal. The two move forward, constantly changing and reinforcing one another.