My new images are different, or at least they are to me. Okay, so now I have been photographing in mirrors for a few decades. In the beginning there were lots of new discoveries and fewer and fewer as time goes on. This makes sense because I see much of my job now as a more nuanced one of refining and pushing. Recently, in the beginning of 2016, I have seen a shift in my work and by my standards – a rather major one. Yes I am using the same mirrors I have always used and using them to reform the human body and to use shapes of broken shards to exaggerate gestures and forms. Nothing new there.
What is totally new, however, is my appreciation of the edges – sharp and angular or round and curved.
Now I am not just breaking the shards but gouging them, digging into them with screwdrivers, utility knives and using paint to selectively bring bits of color into the marks. The result gives them a visceral quality – distressed and marred. Because the focus is on the shape of the shards, the edges and textures, they flatten the space. This flattened space results in the body appearing as if broken into flat planes.
These broken planes are disconnected from each other so the figure appears to be put together from disparate pieces. Their loose, often imprecise construction makes me think of marionettes, or dolls. The figures appear less individuated because the emphasis now is not on particular individual features, but more on shapes. The images are still dark and disturbing, as most of my images are but more removed from the form of the human body.
The way the shape of the mirrors relate to each other is similar to Hannah Höck‘s photomontages. An artist from the German Expressionist era, Höck would collage together different elements, torn or cut out magazines, photographs and drawings. The shape of these elements created a similar flat sense of space that my mirror planes do. Figures in her work are often redefined through the edges of the paper and images she uses. The effect is often twisted, almost comical in it’s bizarreness, but disturbing to the point of being haunting, and this new mirror work seems to echo that strange emotional quality.
photomontage by Hannah Höch
I’ve also found the figures in the latest mirror images to appear in odd, uncomfortable and perhaps unnatural gestures. Although there may be nothing particularly twisted about the bodies themselves, the way the mirror shards reshape and redefine the body’s extremities make these gestures seem rigid and stiff, and jarring, reminding me of the way the figure is depicted in the work of Egon Schiele, or Oskar Kokoschka. Their drawings and paintings of the human form are immediately recognizable for their simple yet exaggerated linear quality. The figures are often twisted, sometimes to the point of being grotesque, and frequently have elongated, disproportionate limbs and/or features. Since the latest mirror work focuses on the shape of the mirrors, the arms, legs, torso and even heads of the figures are forcibly redefined into these rigid shapes, echoing the taut oddness of Schiele or Kokoschka’s figures.
Much of the figure in my latest mirror images becomes similarly flat and simplified, often breaking the body into flat planes. This effect gives them the same gaunt, stark, and desolate appearance as seen in both Schiele and Kokoschka’s work.
Since I have taken more liberty with defacing the mirror surfaces, the “hatching” effect has become louder, and is visually similar to Käthe Kollowitz‘s mark making. Through the expression of her mark making there is an element of tragedy in her work, one of desperation and despair. The figures in this latest mirror work exhibit a similar quality of despair, reflecting more of an internal, psychological state rather than representing actual, physical beings.