Wednesday, October 31, 2018

You Never Loved Me



Hello, it's been a minute! I'm here again to very excitedly announce my first video collaboration in quite some time. I suppose this doesn't happen for me much anymore, as I tend to adopt an incredibly isolated approach to art... in most cases out of a need but in other cases out of self doubt. I tend to think that no artist really wants to work with me. Many of us artists are very familiar with that friend -- Impostor Syndrome. Which actually fits the theme of this project swimmingly, as the creative process required to complete this work made me face myself in a way I've only explored once before. 

YOU NEVER LOVED ME is a deep dive into human thought, an exploration of the abstract psyche; Mechanisms so frail yet incredibly resilient, which desperately cling to external data to better make sense of themselves. The visuals I created to accompany the song are a representation of my own subconscious battling the consciously constructed symbols built to protect my mind. A battle which began to rage in 2016 with my discovery of EMDR therapy. From this, I found myself pondering the question of whether or not the information housed in one's brain is a metaphysical imprint of personality -- inescapable and unbending. The internal conflict born from the possibility we are condemned to the confines of a sense of self sculpted into entanglement by the gnarled hands of trauma. Or, perhaps, that who we are can and will be determined by experience, but as a tool wielding self awareness, put in place to build the individual we idealize. YOU NEVER LOVED ME is visual purge of the notion that painful memories are a mental prison, barring us from becoming who we were meant to be.


The "mother" of this project was interestingly enough Darren Aronofsky's Mother!; with many memorable sound bites from the film cleverly peppered throughout the sound piece. When I was first sent the song, its intensity truly threw me off. There was something about it that made it hard to listen to, much like the way Mother! is described as being a "hard watch." Both this piece of music and the original film resonated with me on profound levels, although levels which do not resonate intuitively. This is initially what drew me into the project, despite the weighty uncertainty of taking it on. I wasn't sure if I had the ability to describe my feelings concerning the aforementioned original film and the new piece of music inspired by it, let alone exclusively in images.

Much of what artists do is frightening. Complacency has the potential to murder art, so those feelings of uncertainty and fear pushed me forward. I knew the fears and experimentation of this project could potentially be freeing.


Taking it a step further, I decided I wanted the visual piece to mirror the uncomfortable nature of Mother! and Alone Architect's music. The "unwatchable" air emanating from Mother! inspired me to take a very experimental approach to the piece; using a slow build into unexpected displacement, leading to a crashing crescendo... yet with no predictable pattern, no rhythmic puzzle of cuts. Essentially breaking any rules that allow the viewer to follow along. This is more of a piece to unfortunately be subjected to (my apologies), much like the impression of an image, inverted and distorted, stuck behind heavy eyelids laying still at night.


I can honestly say that in the beginning, this piece was created through stinging eyes and burning anger. Spite seeping through my teeth, I combed through my old home videos, mourning the loss of any private, pleasant memories I once held dear. Memories that could have easily been saved from contamination, if only those holding my hand through my formative years would have taken the correct path. If I could have been more carefully carried, avoiding destructive tendencies which spawned in my early years, poisoning my thoughts onward. But that wasn't so.

By the end of the project, I felt a definitive separation between the pain I suffered growing up and the qualities I found in myself along the way. Not all was contaminated, and any contamination in my mind was now an opportunity for growth. The classic, played out metaphor of a diamond created under pressure came to mind. The pain was over and the past is dead, and with that clarity I realized that any pain I was subjected to by the hands of another was most likely unintentional. That they were drowning in their own file room of chaotic emotional data as well, taking everyone down with them in an attempt to stay afloat. I may have almost drowned, but the only way I can save myself and those around me is to organize the mess in my brain by any means possible. I'm not there yet, but this project created a new path toward clarity.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Honeymoon & Parturition | New Frankenstein Inspired Paintings




I'm so pleased to announce I recently completed my first paintings in seven years. These were made with great care, some trepidation, joy, and obsession albeit still very experimental in nature. The task was arduous but I can say I'm proud for the experience and what I was able to accomplish after such a long hiatus.

The pieces will be on view tomorrow, October 20th through Halloween in Pasadena, California as a part of a small group show consisting of local artists. For purchase inquiries, I can be contacted directly at hello@casstronaut.com.


First in this small series is "Honeymoon"; a vision of carnage left after a man's indulgence in his insatiable hunger for God-like power. Inspired by the perspective of Elizabeth, the wife and victim of Victor Frankenstein's mania, and a willing participant in the sacrifice of marriage. Ready to give everything to her husband on their wedding night, a sentiment her husband should have shared, but instead his ego robbed everything from her, stealing the precious innocence he so adored.

"Honeymoon"
Watercolor, gouache, and charcoal in antique frame. 23" x 18"

Mae Clarke as Elizabeth in the 1931 film adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

In my mind, this event in the novel is an allegory for virginity. It is telling that her death happened the night of her wedding, understood to be a life giving event. The symbolic gift of body and soul to another could been seen as a literal loss, if we were to see it happening physically. An idea many artists have attempted to emulate symbolically throughout the ages; icons of Jesus and the Virgin Mary for example, literally willing to give up their hearts in thousands of years of great works. When a heart is given willingly, it is life giving. When it is taken by a man or otherwise, it is missing; a perpetual walking, physical and emotional death.

Special thanks to Caitin Stickels for modeling as reference for this piece!

"Honeymoon" in its final stages.



And finally, "Parturition". Portraying a violent watery birth, a being thrust into an unforgiving world that was destined to reject it. Conceived with no regard for the sanctity of life nor of death, and without thought to the individual being created. Another reason many lovers of the novel argue that Victor is the true villain of the story.

"Parturition"
Watercolor, gouache, and charcoal in antique frame. 23" x 18"

Many of us are familiar with the pains of birth and we sympathize with a mother's sacrifice and anguish in those moments. But none of us can recall how it feels to be born. Do we feel our mother's pain? Is it frightening? Does the shock of the new world hurt us? Do we feel first pangs of loneliness in those initial moments outside of the womb? These were questions I pondered while I created my own version of this creature.

A still from the 1992 film adaption of Frankenstein that inspired "Parturition"

A stage in the first layer of paint that was quite dizzying.

☩ ☩ ☩

Along with the show, many events will be taking place at the same location throughout its duration celebrating the bicentennial of the novel. All are public and all are welcome! Please come take a look at these pieces in person if you're able!

Feel free to contact me any time for pricing and availability. 



Thursday, February 22, 2018

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore


Throughout my pilgrimage to Italy, I visited and sometimes attended mass in multiple churches per day. Therefore it's difficult for me to pinpoint my exact feelings upon entering any given church. Though I had a plan to combat the overwhelm - I would usually enter each consecrated structure intending to first let its beauty penetrate me, to pray, or visit a certain relic or what have you. Then I would spend my next round about the church documenting as much as I could. I knew my brain wouldn't retain so much detail or information. I finally have a moment to place everything I captured into one place with some of my thoughts. This post will be the first among many of my tour through some of the holiest places in my home away from home; Italy. 

The Basilica of Saint Mary Major stands out not only because it was two blocks away from my apartment, nor because it was the first place I visited after arriving in Rome, but because its community was thriving and of course because it supposedly holds pieces of the manger Jesus was kept in after he was born.

The original structure was erected in the time before Mary's ascension, but little of it remains. The construction atop the original monument, the one that you see here, began in 435 AD and continues today. It seems to have an odd mix of baroque and Greek influence, almost as if Saint Peter's Basilica and the Cathedral in Monreale were smashed together to make an explosion of golden mosaics and painstakingly ornate flourishes.

One of the many panels found directly overhead puzzled together like stars on the ceiling. The seal seems to depict a papal or bishop's seal, likely a pope due to the crown (a bishop's seal has a different little hat), but the ox image is usually attributed to Saint Luke, who wasn't a pope. Each bishop and pope has a unique coat of arms so this likely could have been a pope influenced by Luke, who is the patron saint of artists. He was an iconographer himself, so based on this information I can imagine this pope's focus throughout his service was toward the arts. This is just speculation, as I can't find who this exact seal belongs to.

This stained glass piece near the narthex of the church seems to be very modern. I don't know an extensive amount about the upkeep of stained glass, but through my travels and observations, I've noticed stained glass is usually the first to go. This is generally due to weather, moisture, vandalism, even sunlight, and of course thanks to the fragile nature of glass. Even fairly new, expensive pieces in the US tend to deteriorate quickly, although their construction is sometimes questionable as many intended "permanent" structures in the US are. The choice of this piece displayed in such a place seems to be quite the contrast, but that also tends to favor the church's theme of not being married to one particular style. A theory I have is that this piece was most likely fairly affordable to acquire - despite many misconceptions a church's manifestation and maintenance are sustained through major debts to creditors and the donations of its parishioners. Most parishes are millions of dollar in debt, although I imagine Rome is a bit better off due to tourism and a more populous diocese, but of course with a heftier bill. As you'll see later, this basilica has a tremendous amount of ongoing upkeep so this window may have been low on the list of priorities, the "original" (ie older, more salvageable) pieces and structures were most likely at the top of the list. It would make sense to hire an artist to create a new original piece, rather than hire a master of ancient reproductions to recreate an original or repair a rotting piece. This is very common in ancient churches. The juxtaposition of modern and affordable is stark against the ancient and irreplaceable. Many try their best to preserve as much of their original beauties as possible.

This is one of those moments you find you can't analyze anything. Its dense detail and symbolism is something that swallows you. This is an area closed off temporarily due to restoration, so I didn't pay very close attention to its intended message, but it's most definitely an additional side chapel, dedicated to its patroness, the woman above all men, above all humankind; the Queen of Heaven. The dedication to her is apparent -- she dwarfs the apostles scrambling to write the gospels below her.

I find this statue of the Madonna and child very intriguing. Usually, the virgin is portrayed as somber, awesome, serene... this almost seems defiant and conflicted, yet accepting. This to me seems much more human than usual matronly depictions of Mary. Here is a position of veneration while at the same time a position of plea and acceptance. Many of us can understand the sorrowful Mary, weeping at the feet of the brutally crucified Jesus. A natural reaction to universally heartbreaking circumstances. Portraying the complexities of being handed a God-child is not easy, yet is done here with the utmost subtly somehow, giving us a possible complete picture of who Mary was at the time of her rearing God. Her child seems to hold what may be grapes, happily extending them to the viewer, possibly signifying the coming and willing sacrifice of his blood for his people as wine. Mary's position is extended in surrender and almost an anger toward the heavens and possibly even to the cross awaiting their fate. This is so similar to Jesus' moment of weakness and humanity in the garden when he pleads with God to let this cup pass him if he wills it, knowing full well he does not will it. There's so much to unpack in this sculpture that I don't think I could possibly begin to cover here.

This place definitely seems to be a hub for community activity which felt so homey. Confessions were open in several different languages (my husband shown confessing to an English speaking priest above). Many groups of people came from all walks of life to learn about our practices, following priests and lay people; listening to them speak about every aspect of the church philosophically, historically, and scientifically. And dozens of folks like me, taking it all in quietly snapping hundreds of photos and paying respects. I've never seen so much happening in a church at once - usually, just one of those activities are reserved for a specific time. 

Another fun aspect of the basilica is the ongoing renovations. This created an interesting juxtaposition of baroque madness with sterile, industrial giants. I actually really love how this looks. Not permanently of course. For anyone else, I see how it can take something away from your moment, but I appreciate getting a glimpse at the amount of work it requires to keep these public spaces glittering. The process of making art usually isn't pretty, after all.

And finally, the main event. This is the reliquary holding the fragments of wood from the manger. Catholics are not required to worship or accept relics, in a sense. In fact, many don't, but the proper veneration of relics and the belief in their reality are required of Catholics. We are not necessarily required to believe in the authenticity of any particular relic that is set before us. This doesn't deter the church's quest to authenticate and preserve various items of importance to history. Even still, the history of most relics is better preserved than that of most historical objects and the evidence for their authenticity is highly compelling. Many relics can be traced back to saints hiding historical artifacts when Catholicism was illegal in its beginning. The reliquaries that hold these pieces are of course much newer, but can also be traced back to specific artisans, regions, and communities after relics were distributed throughout the world as aids for worship. For example, I currently care for a relic of the cross. It's made up of three pieces: the tiny cross fragment, authenticated by a bishop from a time I'm still trying to research, a small pectoral cross reliquary made in France a few hundred years ago, and then the entirety of those two pieces are kept in a large standing cross made in southwestern Germany a couple hundred years, then kept in a convent until its closure. I don't know the lineage of this specific relic, as in how it was saved, who cared for it before it was housed in this reliquary, who made the reliquary, or how this basilica came by it. I still need to do research on these but sometimes records are extensive and can take some time to find and comb through. I'm sure the basilica keeps the lineage of this relic in safe keeping. Again, we are not required to believe, but it's fun and nice if it helps one's faith. You'd be surprised at what people have found over the centuries that have yet to be disproven, so you never know.

One final fun thought... While visiting this church I found myself getting confused about the word manger. In English, this is the only word we have that's anything like this. I don't know what its root it, but I'm assuming it's Latin since many romantic languages possess permutations of the word "mange". In Italy and France, mangi and manger are terms for eating. The fact that Jesus was kept in something labeled in some languages as something to eat is interesting because until about the 1520s, all Christiandom believed that you truly ingest the body and blood of Jesus in fulfillment of the Passover feast at every mass. Catholics and Orthodox Christians still believe this, but I'm not entirely sure of the etymology I'm speculating is true or not. It was just a funny thought I had during my visit - as I kept hearing the word "manger", a word I rarely hear in the US unless it's near Christmas, thinking that people were just mispronouncing a French word.







Friday, July 28, 2017

Self Destruct

















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 Blogger doesn't make it entirely easy to read hand written text, so here's a link to download the project as a PDF.

Prints from this project will be available soon in my photography print shop. To be notified when they become available, sign up for my mailing list.
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