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Artist Statement Essay


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Artist Statement Essay

  1. 1. Artist Statement Essay By Elizabeth Vasquez As an artist, I feel the impulse to find new ways of connecting with the world and holding on to those connections for as long as I can. As time goes by our mind lets go of certain memories and makes room for new ones. I am particularly intrigued by film and photography, both of which capture the world in different ways. In film, one can conjure up stories or document stories that already exist. In photography, it is all about capturing one single moment but at the same time, that moment tells its own story or leads to a series of stories. What I am exploring is how I can make a connection with those stories and add my own narrative. I also like to observe how others connect with my own work. I have grown up and discovered that as humans we seek relationships. We seek to make connections with other humans. Through my work, I am connecting on a personal level and, in turn, I want my audiences to also seek a connection to each piece but through their own personal experiences. In the end, we all become connected through one object or color or figure. I am constantly being influenced by other filmmakers specifically those that document life. I have always been quite enamored by documentary films because of the responsiveness it creates within me. In a documentary, you are not merely viewing fictional events but you are experiencing something that is real. Recently I have come across a project titled Life on Hold that has greatly inspired me. The project is a mix of interactive media, photography, film and artwork that tells the story of various Syrian refugees. The project artist was Tammam Azzam, who is also a refugee. He is influenced by other artists and western artwork. His involvement in this project and his other artwork such as his acrylic pieces from his series called “Storeys” has influenced me greatly in my own work. Since he is a refugee, most of what he knows about the war in Syria is from what
  2. 2. he sees on the news. So what he does is look at all the photographs and stills of the destruction of buildings and he recreates them by painting them. He uses the paint to give an overpowering sense of destruction by dripping the paint down the canvas. It also makes it seem that the building is falling off of the canvas. There is one specific refugee that caught my attention and that is seven year old Maya Louay El Sheikh Issa. I decided to capture a few stills from her video and attempt to express the connection I had made with her story. This young little girl reminded me so much of my youngest sister who is also seven. The similarities were not only physical but also based on personalities. It was in the way she laughed, in the way that she spoke and the way that she carried herself. Their hair color was different but was braided in the same style. She was quite outspoken, but there were a few moments where shyness showed through. These are all characteristics that can be used to describe my youngest sister Madelaine. Since Maya’s story was already captured through film and photography, I decided to recreate the stills through digital paint. The colors that I used are based on the mood and color of the stills. In my piece I Would Tell Them to Stop the War, I use a variation of cool and warm earthy neutral tones. These colors are relatively similar to those found in the film still from Maya’s video but have a higher amount of brightness. In the background and foreground surrounding Maya’s lonely figure, there are jumbled up direct quotes from her. These phrases are ones that really stood out to me in the film and are phrases I felt were very powerful. One of these quotes is when Maya says “I would tell them to stop the war” and “I feel no one is happy here…and I am the least happy of all”. I felt these were very powerful statements because despite her seemingly bright personality, she appears to hide or attempt to hide negative feelings about the Syrian war. In this particular piece I decided to jumble up the phrases, so that they are
  3. 3. still there but not so easily readable. I did this because, despite how powerful and meaningful those words are, they do not have much significance to those involved in the war. Humans are capable of sympathy, but they also form a disconnection and a detachment from things they see on television or the internet. Therefore, her words become invisible and even if she screamed them from the rooftops, no one would care enough to do something to help her. I regularly use quick thin or thick lines. I mostly do this because neat lines wouldn’t convey the emotions I have about each art work. There is nothing clean, simple or neat about war. I portray this in my piece called Maya and Mother. This particular piece is from a film still in which Maya and her mother share a very touching moment while visiting a loved one’s grave. Despite the light and bright solid colors that are used on the two subjects, the background contains various heavy and thin black lines. The background of each piece is more abstract than the central figures because I would like the central figure to be more noticeable. I want the viewer to know that the person on the piece is the main reason for the piece and the background is just secondary insight. In Maya and Mother the background contains drawn images of guns and bears with bullet holes. This is based off of the film when Maya states that before she became a refugee, she had a large pink bear but then adds that it is, “probably riddled with bullets now”. I do not necessarily want my audience to make the same connection to Maya as I did, but I do want my audience to make a true connection. For me, I was able to relate so much more to Maya because of her similarity to my sister, I began to see Maya as my sister. Through this connection, I am not only connecting with Maya, but with the concept of what it means to be misplaced, out-of-place, or lost. Growing up I always felt misplaced, like I didn’t quite fit in with anyone or anything. I always felt that my parents favored my older sister and my younger sister which is a normal feeling to get as a result of being the middle child. Now
  4. 4. that I am older, I do not feel so lost. However, that feeling of misplacement transformed into isolation and this is also why I connected with Maya. I have a sense that Maya feels isolated from the world around her, at one point in the film she says, “I am one girl surrounded by four walls”. She feels this way despite the fact that there are hundreds of refugees living in the same building as her and even though she spends the day with both her parents. I find myself all too familiar with this feeling of isolation, despite having a family and numerous friends. I believe that there are others who share this same feeling and this allows me to connect with other people and for those people to share a connection with me and with Maya. My work depends entirely on this belief and it is my sole purpose to create work that forces others to connect with Maya or other subjects on a deeply personal level. I want others to stop unconsciously detaching themselves from the realties that surround the world. I enjoy working both digitally and non- digitally therefore in the future I would like to create more pieces about Maya that involve other mediums. I would also like to research other people in situations different or similar to Syria and explore the connections I make with them.
  5. 5. Untitled, digital media 2015 I would tell them to stop the war, digital media 2015
  6. 6. Maya and Mother, digital media 2015 Artistic Influence From “Storeys” by Tammam Azzam, 180 x 235 cm, acrylic on canvas, 2015