Artist Michelle Dickson has transcended the boundaries of what a self-portrait can be. In her current surrealist sculpture series, Neither Mine Nor Yours, Dickson merges a plaster cast of her own face with driftwood she's collected on hikes in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. areas. The mix of plaster, oil paint, wax, and wood create an amalgam of textures, colors, and natural cracks that highlight the body's connection to its natural landscape. The portraits serve as examinations of natural decay and disorder, but the series as a whole seems to be a metaphor for the impact that memory and experience has on a person.
Dickson explains in her artist's statement: “I think about the physical process of remembering, the unstable nature of memory, and the resulting fear of forgetting. Memory as weight. The use of space in my work often corresponds to how I think about the mental landscape of memory. I’m interested in the similarity you can find in shape and texture across different parts of life. How the structure of rivers are like highways are like veins and root systems. Deteriorating walls can be a portrait of time and a record of human touch.”
Many of the sculptures tempt the viewer to touch and feel the unusual shapes. These are faces unlike the ones we pass by on the street. Some are deformed, as if found in disaster rubble, or half-covered by driftwood. Can our touch heal the wounds of time this face has encountered? On her website, Dickson writes, “I think about the dynamic this creates between the viewer and the object viewed, as well as how the inability to touch has the potential to evoke the same intangibility of memory.” The fact that the faces are detached from the bodies they belong to also helps to create an anxiety of forgetting. Where did these heads come from? Where have they been? How did they get here? Ultimately, by combining human elements with natural objects, Dickson encourages viewers to wonder: What will we become?
All images via Michelle Dickson (photo credit: Joseph Hyde).