Diary Forms: Ellen x 6 + Creature x 5 / 2 weeks

I came into this class knowing that I wanted to make something that captured the way I experience my daily expression and the way makeup plays a large role in that. I have long felt that I split my time between wearing costumes and dressing as myself. Some makeup/outfits that I wear allow me to become someone else in my day to day life, even subtly influencing the ways I act and perceive myself for the day. Ellen Times Six Plus Creature Times Five Over Two Weeks is my attempt to capture the divide between the “costumes” I wear and myself. The piece is made up of 11 masks (6 of which are photos of my face, 5 of which are costume masks) painted to match a makeup look I did arranged around an origami head painted to look like a face without skin (only muscle is visible).

Initially I wanted to simply record my makeup look for the day and then write about how it made me feel. I began by taking a photo of myself, collecting the wipes I used to remove my makeup, and a journal entry about why I wore it. However, I felt that this failed to do justice to the distinction between costume and self. This is where the idea of masks came from. My makeup functions as a kind of mask that I apply to a blank slate— sometimes it enhances my perception of myself and sometimes it transforms me altogether. Thus some of the makeup looks take the form of my face (myself enhanced) and some take the form of masquerade masks (costumes, I am transformed). 

The display was by far the most challenging part of this project. I knew that I wanted the viewer to interact with my work, but figuring out how to make it clear that people could touch it was very difficult. I initially had a foam head painted to look like me, but I kept receiving feedback in weekly critiques that it felt like two different projects. Finally, after much debate, I landed on a paper head. I thought that making it the same material as the masks would help with unity. I then opted to paint the head with the muscles in the face to represent the idea that there is a mask to be placed on a completely bank self every day. I hoped that painting a “naked” face would compel viewers to want to give it a skin. As per my professor’s suggestion, I also added very clear places where masks could be placed in front of the paper face in order to make it incredibly obvious to the viewer that they can take part in choosing who/what will be on display to the world. 

This work deals with my understanding of my self-expression and I am extremely proud of how it came out.  This is my first art class that I have taken at Sarah Lawrence thus far and it has been really wonderful working to improve my ability to translate my thoughts into a visual form. 

Author: Ellen Rogers