Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Department

Art & Art History

First Advisor

Melanie Walker

Second Advisor

Albert Chong

Third Advisor

Kim Dickey

Fourth Advisor

Melinda Barlow

Abstract

Topographies of Pain is an exploration of pain and the aft of bearing witness through marks on the body. Whether the result of accident, surgery, or self-infliction, the physical evidence of trauma intimates a deeper internal suffering. These marks serve as maps of individual experience and personal history; memories recorded in flesh.

Here, the body functions as a site of convergence between public and private life where past erupts into the present. Sharing this ability to capture and preserve the past, these photographic images echo the function of scars on the body as both evidence and memorial. The photograph is both an acknowledgement of their pain and an affirmation to their survival.

This idea of the body as a site of memory and expressed emotion is particularly potent when viewed through the lens of feminist body politics. Through the inherently violent act of marring the surface of the female form, it is irrevocably differentiated from the archetypal to the singular. In this way,. the marked body challenges the cultural construct of the female form as an aesthetic object.

Topographies of Pain grapples with the ethical implications of the act of looking and what it means to bear witness to the pain of others. At once both intimate and aggressive, this relationship is dependent on the willingness of both participants to see and be seen by the other. The photographs work to use this shared vulnerability as a point of connection, collapsing the distinction between self and other where the pain of revealing and the pain of looking at that which is revealed converge.

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