I began this process as an exploration of the way disparaging words (fat, ugly, worthless, failure, etc.) intertwine with identity. Over time, these patterns of thought can become mantras that shape our self-perception. Many of these critical words are derived from a sense of entrapment within the conflicting roles and expectations of women in this post-feminist social context. As a woman, I feel I am constantly told that I am “liberated,” but the exact implications of such a state of being have remained ambiguous. From an intellectual standpoint it is clear that it is impossible to fit every standard, but there is often a sense of shame embedded within this perceived failure to succeed.
The concept of words as identity manifests itself in my latest piece. I began hand-stitching words onto sheer pieces of fabric as a way to convey the frustrating relationship between words and identity. I initially intended for each of the words to hold their own significant meaning, yet as I worked with them physically and within my own mind, they became increasingly intangible—a chaotic amalgamation of thoughts and expectations. Through this process of rumination, the words cease to have meaning. The viewer experiences this process physically by having to navigate through the piece, as well as visually; some words still stand alone, but many are left indecipherable or lost within layers of fabric.
To deem ourselves unworthy—or fat, or ugly, or worthless, or stupid—is to dehumanize the Self; if we constantly measure our own worthiness and validity against these elusive societal expectations, I believe we eventually lose our ability to truly connect with others and ourselves. This piece does act as a resolution to these issues, but simply serves to exist as a momentary expression of what it feels like to be routinely trapped in one’s own mind.
Anderson, Emily, "Liberated (View 3)" (2011). 2011 Student Portfolio Exhibition. Image. Submission 7.