When I pick up a book, I know there is a lot of information to take in, there are potential hours and hours of my eyes going back and forth across the pages, but the cover of all this knowledge dictates if I will read it or not. It’s kind of sad, really, that I may pass up on something just because of one glance. We’ve all heard it, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Yet when it comes to people, we often forget that there’s more than just what’s on the surface, that a person’s life is complex.
Growing up, I immersed myself in other worlds through books, movies, tv, and music. These outlets provided me stories and characters that reflected real life. They helped me at a young age understand, at least in an elementary way, what identity was and how complex it could be. Through this inspiration, I attempt to create that same depth within my art. Early on in my work, I didn’t really know what I was looking for, but now I understand that each of my pieces was an effort to mimic that feeling of when I experienced an amazing story. Because I am a graphic designer in addition to a studio artist, design has been a large influence in my work. And because of my love of stories, typography started to appear in many of my pieces. Echo Chamber was my first ever collage. I didn’t know it at the time, but that project was the first piece in an ongoing body of work.
My medium varies slightly form piece to piece, but the common goal is to create as much depth in these "characters" as possible, so that may be through paper collage, laser cut wood, digital photography, or even sculpture. In these pieces, I will often take real life inspiration from someone I know and base the piece around an interview I conduct with the model.
By making pieces about other’s identities, I ran into a problem. By me interviewing them, choosing what to use from their identities, and just me making their portrait in general, I lose who they are. Lisa Kokin, an artist who uses found photography, stated about her work that “of course, in the final analysis these works are more about me than any of the individuals who appear in my work.” I’ve learned to acknowledge this problem, and like an author writing a book, I view my pieces as characters inspired from real life and my own interpretation.
Identity is like a locked book. You may be able to see the cover, the color that it is, or the title of the book, but you will never be able to read it, or at least in its entirety. You may grab quotes out of context, or pages out of chapters, but you will never be able to read it front to back. But what is it made of? Where do the chapters, the sentences, and words derive from? Well, they describe the identity, and what is important is that this book is never ending, it is constantly added to, words and chapters keep being written, but they often are redacted, torn out, underlined, highlighted, or just forgotten. But no one can ever read it, because no identity is transparent. Not even to the person that the identity belongs to, for no one truly understands themselves. The faces we put out to the world only show a fraction of our book, and the way we view ourselves is us cherry picking our own story. No one really knows our identities, and everyone, every book is unique, and they are constantly changing.
“I have always been fascinated by human beings and their complexity. Even with people that do appalling things, the big question is why. Some of my characters have done horrible things. Were they born a monster or as a cute little kid like the rest of us? Things happen to us along the way that lead us to junctures in our life where we make decisions. Those decisions and their consequences color everything that comes after."
-George R. R. Martin