A distant memory

At the end of the semester at RISD, I always end my classes with a slideshow of my work.  This slideshow is only for my students: I would never give this lecture as a visiting artist.  It’s a unique slideshow in that I show and talk about work starting with my Freshman year at RISD moving all the way to work that I complete just a few weeks ago, making for sixteen years of work. Students have asked me in the past to place this slideshow online, but I won’t do it because a lot of it is just too embarrassing to be in the public domain. I think this slideshow is important as evidence of the multiple transformations and changes that a single artist goes through over a long period of time. It’s a demonstration of how one period in your life transitions from one place to the next, and which demonstrates how to get from being a student into the professional world. Even though it’s a talk that I’ve done many times in the past, it’s always a difficult talk for me to give because of how much I divulge about myself as an artist in the process.

Although my “Falling” project is still in the very beginning stages, it’s a project that I included in this slideshow for the first time.  I hadn’t had the opportunity to really talk about this project in a public setting before and I could tell as I started to talk about the project how uncomfortable it was for me to be discussing the topic.  I know that I need to find a way to talk about this subject without letting it affect me emotionally.

One question asked by one of my students about the work was particularly interesting: the student asked why I didn’t use myself (instead of my collaboration with actress Marianna Bassham) to act out the state of agitation portrayed in my drawings. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that if I were to make myself go through it, that the experience would be too close to me. Thinking this through, I’ve realized that since I’ve been diagnosed and treated for depression, that the depression is starting to feel like a distant memory. It’s as if the depression was a person I knew from a long time ago, and who no longer exists for me anymore. I think this is the reason I can make work about this, because the experience seems to be pushing further back all the time.

2 thoughts on “A distant memory

  1. Hi Clara, first of all, it’s always great to come across your post. I don’t know of that many artists who are so open about themselves. I find your blog refreshing.

    As for the post, I’m dealing with the process of “empathizing” in my thesis, and I thought of this very topic myself. It’s such a vast and fascinating subject to me.

    From my discovery, I’ve come to think of space as the medium for empathy. It seems that without space empathy is impossible. For two people to empathize, we require space, because the very recognition of another person is to recognize the space between the two. This seems to be the very first thing we need to do to start empathizing. To empathize with __ourselves__ we also seem to need space, but it is temporal space… food for thought perhaps?

    On a side note, in an acting class I took last semester there were a lot of reading and practice on becoming aware of the “self”, and what it means to “act”. (There are videos of how Uta Hagen teaches this to actors on youtube) The idea was that we are made up of many “selves” changing from moment to moment, and that to “act” is to cast ourselves into the many “selves” we have accrued in time (a past context), then to bring that “self” to the present moment (a different context) of action. This shattered all my previous misunderstanding of “acting”, which I took it to be “pretending”…. The implication is that to “lose yourself” is to become fully aware of yourself. Which I find to be a fascinating knot… Perhaps it’s of some interest to you, too. I don’t know. 🙂

  2. Hi Slim,
    This is all really great; all of this definitely touches upon a lot of the topics and themes that I’ve been thinking about lately. For me working through and about myself is very new-in the past I’ve always completely removed myself from my topics so that I could explore a subject. So this idea of the different versions of self is very applicable and fascinating. Thanks for chiming in!

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