carole cluer

Art, hope and self acceptance

Tag: self acceptance

Lydy 2

The first year of my MA course is finished and I have started the process of catching up with my ‘real’ life, apart from the boring stuff – tidying and gardening etc. I thought I would finally update my rather sporadic blog. I am also busy working on something for an exhibition in the New Year, its really exciting and will flex my non drawing muscles! Hopefully I will have something to show for that soon too.

Anyway back to my drawings of Lydy, I posted my first completed portrait a few months ago but  have been slightly distracted from my original intention to complete a series of drawings by the requirements of my course but at last I have finished my second portrait of Lydy.

One of the modules on my course concerns drawing from archives, it took me off in a whole other direction. A complete surprise but totally wonderful, as soon as I figure out how to present it I will post up my work.

I took my first drawing back to show Lydy who fortunately was happy with my first attempt and graciously agreed to sit for me again. This time around it really did feel like I knew her better and I do think this second portrait feels different although perhaps I need time to work out exactly how,perhaps we were both more relaxed.

I hope you like it.

SONY DSC

 

New Work – Portrait of Lydy

I just wanted to show you my first work in what hopefully will become a series. As with all my pictures I want to apologise for the quality, its really tough getting a good clear photo of a 100 x 70 cm drawing, they always come out too dark without the full contrast, but I hope you can get the idea.

If you would like to see the real thing it is being displayed at Sheffield Hallam University along with some of my other work on the second floor of Cantor Building.

It is a portrait of a wonderful woman called Lydy whose
bravery, already tested beyond the experience of most of us, has extended to allowing a stranger to draw her.

I am extremely grateful for her generosity and graciousness which I hope I have begun to capture.


I will soon begin the next drawing which Lydy sat for after seeing this portrait for the first time, hopefully using the process of drawing to get to know her better and to extend my work into other media.

Any feedback would be really useful, especially if you manage to see it for real!

Thank you

Self Portrait

For the last eighteen months I have been drawing portraits of people with scars. I have wanted them to be a celebration of imperfection and a counter to what sometimes gets mistaken for society, you know the magazines and films where the already surgically perfected get airbrushed into impossible proportions. There is a unique and geniune beauty about someone who has lived a life and who has come to accept what that life has made them, who accepts all the physical and emotional scars that life has drawn across their body and soul as proof of a journey taken.  I have always known that I am interested in this because of the many scars I have and how difficult I find applying this philosophy personally – I find I am always less tolerant with myself than others.

Anyway, I soon began to realise that each portrait I drew had an element of self portrait in it, I was circling around something I was too scared to execute.  All those wonderful people who agreed to let me draw them were so much braver than me.

At Christmas I drew my first self portrait, it was for my Jan assessment so when it came to having to display it I chose a dark corner in the basement of our studios and hoped no one would notice it. It made me feel physically sick to show it.  I  soon realised it was a pretty bad drawing, I was so scared of  actually looking at myself Ihad rushed it so when it came to deciding what to do for my final degree show I knew I had to redraw it – properly this time.

I have taken twice as long to draw this picture than I usually do, really focusing on each centimetre. In the next few days I have got to hang it in the gallery, that is going to be the toughest bit and I am  not sure how late I will leave it.  A scar isn’t just a mark  on your skin it is the story of a moment in your life. For me, my scar represents what I hate the most about myself, the fear that keeps me awake at night and is the thing that somehow makes me feel ashamed, I can’t quite believe I am going to stick it on a wall and let people see it – let people judge me.  I have to remind myself that it also represents what I feel most proud about myself, what I have endured and survived and the example I want to show my daughter and son.

If I feel like this it might seem weird to you that I am posting this, but I am just sitting in my study typing, alone, this is me just dipping my toe into the water, any reactions are distant and removed. Real life begins on the 1st of June when the exhibition opens.

Its not the best photo but I hope you can see it well enough,it’s a little over life sized and I have framed it with glass so that the viewer can see their reflection over the drawing

hope

I am making the artists book that I have spoken about before, I want to use cyanotypes of dandelions for the cover and end sheets and have been waiting for them to appear so I can experiment. Finally a spell of uncharacteristically warm weather has kicked nature into action and never ones to miss out, dandelions have begun to embroider the fields around my house. Its a little early for them to turn into clocks but I managed to find one on my first ‘expedition’ and I carried it carefully back in the palm of my hand. I am not sure if it was the hour long walk in the sun or seeing life bursting out around me but I felt a hell of a lot better on my way back than when I started. Life really is hope

Beauty – only skin deep?

A lot of my work is concerned with how our appearance affects the way we think about ourselves so I do spend time thinking about how this notion of beauty has shaped our world. Although I have never considered myself beautiful I have had to adjust my own view of myself as surgery and age has changed me, life traces the passage of time over all our bodies and if we are to remain content with ourselves we have to learn to accept those changes.

We have all grown up hearing phrases  like ‘ugly as sin’ and listening to fairy stories like Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin, where the hero/heroines are beautiful and the ugly are there to be punished or redeemed. In the past women have been disfigured and restricted by conventions that demanded corsets and foot binding and it is a shame that today when women in the west have more freedom than ever that so many feel it necessary to starve themselves and undergo surgery.

The trouble is beauty can now be bought, cosmetics, dyes, surgery, dieting can create a facsimile of perfection.  It is interchangeable with success, if the rich and successful are beautiful then by becoming beautiful riches and success will follow. It is used to promote and sell, it is a commodity to exploit.

It would be lovely to think that how you look doesn’t make a difference but you only have to remember back to your school days to know that the beautiful are treated differently, the groups of pretty popular teenagers to whom life seems to come so easily and the groups of awkward plain young people who have already learnt that they have more to prove in life. What is sad though is in a recent worldwide survey only 2 % of women stated they believed themselves to be beautiful.[1]

When we view the rest of the world through the filter of the airbrush then its understandable that our own image will be less perfect and as long as beauty is epitomised by the absence of imperfection then we are all doomed to fall short of that standard.

With medical advances enabling those with disabilities and deformities to live the variety of the human body is only going to widen, if we are to evolve into a happier and more content society then we need to find a way that allows beauty to encompass that variety.

We need to embrace the imperfections that life writes across our bodies. The notion of beauty fundamentally affects how we view the body, others and our own and it has been used to exclude and control but there is hope that it can become inclusive and celebratory because ultimately it is us who write the guidlines.

Here are links to a couple of interesting websites

Changing Faces is a charity that works to promote equality and acceptance for those with facial disfigurement. The whole site is interesting but try taking their face equality survey and see how accepting you are.

http://www.changingfaces.org.uk/Face-Equality/Take-the-face-equality-survey

The Face Research Lab which is has online psychology experiments that judge the facial traits people find attractive and programme for you to create your perfect/average face

http://www.facelab.org


[1] Nancy Etcoff. ‘The Real Truth about Beauty: A Global Report’, Dove White Paper, (2004)                    

<http://www.clubofamsterdam.com/contentarticles/52%20Beauty/dove_white_paper_final.pdf&gt; [accessed 20 March 2011]