This body of work continues my thinking about how the world sees people and how that differs from what the truth about a person really is. The layering of images on decorated backgrounds and pages of text talks about the things we do to hide our true selves from the world. It’s about how most people only see the outside – the surface decoration – and not the truths that lie behind the outer surface, inside the other person. Pretty, decorative, nice – but what does that have to do with what is inside?
The unadorned, anonymous female figures that I draw say that what the world sees is just the packaging we were put in but did not choose for ourselves. But the outer physical shell is not the truth about a person any more than the personality that most of the world sees and thinks is the truth about us.
The face and eyes are supposed to be the window that allows others to see inside, but that can be a lie. My figures have no window, because I don’t believe that it shows any more than what we want the world to see. You have to go beyond the surface, search through the layers, pick out the truth from all the surrounding surface decoration – the camouflage that hides the truth…the inside, from the world…from other people… from ourselves.
There’s also a delusion here – that we can hide what’s inside. Sometimes people be see past the camouflage; see into you despite all attempts at hiding.
Or maybe you can just enjoy what you see on the surface. I did make it pretty, after all.
This series of prints is made from original drawings in a book by Elizabeth Oakes Smith called Woman and Her Needs. Elizabeth Oakes Smith (1806-1893) was a poet, fiction writer, editor, lecturer and women’s rights activist. The text of the book was originally published as a series of essays in the New York Tribune between 1850 and 1851. What at first glance appears to be a Victorian tome on how women should behave, is actually one of the earliest feminist publications, arguing for women’s spiritual and intellectual capacities as well as women’s equal rights to political, economic and educational opportunities.
The pages of this beautiful old book became the the perfect background for my drawings.