Flesh and Mud: Bodily Deconstruction through Handmade Paper
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My art practice primarily utilizes handmade paper to create works that are both alluring and repulsive in the ways they represent the human body. As a transmasculine nonbinary artist, I am challenging representation that can make people uncomfortable by being vulnerable with my body. Through video, handmade paper, and the process of making body casts, I embrace manipulating the image of my body to create monstrous or mythical hybrids to reflect the experience of being “othered” and living in a state of hyper awareness around gendered visibility. In Akiko Busch’s book, How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency, Busch presents an argument that claims true liberation from the confines of societal structures and psychological exhaustion comes from re-evaluating the ways in which we connect to nature. Instead, she suggests defiantly detaching from the pressures to be completely understood or “seen” by society through ritualistically surrendering to the environment. The full bodily engagement, use of natural plant fibers, and meditative process inherent to hand papermaking can be likened to that notion of surrendering to the environment as it becomes a self-healing and liberating process to mediate the frustration and rage of being “unseen” in everyday life. My work acknowledges the internal effort put into that experience to find peace and comfort within the self through the process of making paper. At the same time, I categorize my usage of hybridity and unsettling bodily forms as an external, public method of processing negative experience. Therefore, my body of work blends the external and internal response to defying gender conformity: calling attention to the arbitrary yet confining structures around bodily normativity while simultaneously working in a process that functions as a ritualized act of healing and ownership of the body in communion with nature. The physicality of making paper and sculptural body casts demands an intentional awareness and exploration of the body that confronts the uncomfortable and the intimate. In these processes of making, my body and handmade paper become a vessel for expressing a nonbinary transgender experience and radical reclamation of the self.