Tuesday, April 23, 2013


4'x6' (wax, salt, acrylic, powdered charcoal, plaster, plaster sculpting clay, playsand)  
Today I completed my final piece for the semester, titled "Dysmorphia", in which I address specifically my struggles with body image, my diabetes, and gay culture.  My original plan was formulated in a previous post, but as you can see there have been some significant changes, all of which were discovered by accident.  There's a lot of talk about process here, but if you want to get straight to the meaning of this painting, you can skip to the blue section near the end :)

I began the way I normally do, looking at the intuition drawing to reorient myself on the emotional memories, and then letting my body intuitively express them on the canvas.  Next  I next began painting, using water to mix the paint with the charcoal, after which I began constructing the gash in the center with a mixture of plaster and (though I didn't intend this) plaster sculpting clay with I though was another carton of lightweight plaster and tossing around salt and powdered charcoal.  At this point I was feeling lost.  Everything seemed arbitrary and contrived and did not carry the emotional weight I had obtained in the intuition sketch.  So, I went to a crock pot in which I had been melting blocks of paraffin wax, and, since there were no handles to prevent me from burning my hands, i had use some oven mitts to lift out the pot.  Generally speaking, the pot was ceramic and therefore slippery, and this in addition to the lack of friction with the mitts its no surprise that I dropped it on the canvas and spilled wax across almost the entire surface.  Obviously, there was immediate horror, but these things do happen and I have learned to move with the situation.

So, I let everything cool down, meditated, and play with the new surface, discovering it was impossible to paint on but also froze everything underneath the wax which was awesome.  So I took it further, pouring on more wax, throwing n more charcoal, getting a knife and carving into the surface, spraying on a clear matte primer which allowed me to paint again, but what was this telling me?  I had done all these things to the surface but had not discovered anything.  But of course, this is when the revelation came.

When I first started dropping the charcoal, I had gotten a water bottle and sprayed water on to see if I could freeze the powder to surface with it without blowing it away.  Here I did the same thing, and unintentionally created pools of water that drifted across the surface, picking up particles of paint, wax, salt, and charcoal and depositing them in the cracks and crevices of the wax.  Unintentionally, I had discovered a way to reveal every mark and scar in the surface. 

How does his relate to dysmorphia?

Glad you asked!  I came to the realization that in this piece, the wax becomes my body, and every element that I added to alter the surface becomes a reflection of what I feel I need to change about myself.  These efforts destroy and alter the surface in ways that are mostly invisible to me, yet an unintentional element reveals the truth.  The water washes away the surface, picking up the superficial materials and redepositing them into the traumas that I have inflicted beneath the projections, forcing me to acknowledge not only the fact that they exist, but that I am accountable.  In many ways I do not see myself as I am, but only in terms of the environment in which I am placed.  This relative identification is corrosive because those elements are not inherent to my body, placed, instead, by the cultures of which I construct my identity.  The images of male models and masculinity are merely simulacrums of perfection, yet for me they have become reality and I am a deviation.  

You may wonder about the significance of the scar in the middle of the image.  Well, to me, the flaws in my appearance are the only things I see.  They become magnified to extreme proportions, though in reality they are mostly unnoticeable.  This scar is a side effect of my diabetes, called lipodystrophy (the deterioration of fat due to frequent insulin injections).  On my left thigh, I have developed a small dent where the fat has deteriorated, and though it's barely noticeable, I obsess over it enough that it is perfect for a representation of how I see myself.  

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