An Ecology of Feeling - Text
An Ecology of Feeling is an exhibition of drawings and sculptures that are creative records of an imaginary voyage I took into myself to witness the generation of feeling. These hybrids of natural and human structures are concrete metaphors for malignant feelings, anxious sensations and existential fears. These strange yet familiar intestinal forms, cocoons, nests and bezoars are figures for depression. In order to deepen my understanding of my negative feelings but not get lost in my own subjectivity, I anchored my project in methods derived from the ecological sciences. Almost as an objective ‘third person’, I generated ‘field notes’, created ‘observational’ drawings, classified feeling into families, genera, species, and then invented names for them. Because my emotional sensitivity extends to the outside world, particularly to environmental issues, the manifestation of this project required me to make everything of recycled, compostable, materials as well as found natural objects. This ethic/aesthetic also expresses the idea that the forms in this exhibition come from living organisms. Despite my desire to gain control, many of the objects seem to have a life of their own and, like my ungoverned feelings, begin to invade the gallery and transgress its boundaries.
Before making feeling the subject of my explorations, my research focused on nature and using environmentally friendly art materials. When I joined the MFA program two years ago, I was making layered abstract paintings that evoked the experience of being immersed in nature. However, as I entered more deeply into the work, instead of using external stimulation for inspiration, I was more attracted to images that came from within. Dreams and feelings directed my production. My project evolved to both examine and communicate my internal experiences: especially my feelings about transitions I was undergoing as a graduate student. I was depressed and art became a means for me to comprehend these feelings differently. At a certain point, I realized that my project mirrored alchemy, which as Carl Jung theorized, is a contemplative as well as a physical process that does not merely result in material metamorphosis but is also personally transformative.1,2 The understanding that external work can reflect internal work, paired with my interest in the natural world, led me to investigate forms found in nature and in the body in which transition and transformation occur, such as larvae, wombs, tumours and tree galls. By drawing and making sculptures of these forms, which are also metaphors for my negative feelings, I attempt to reify, record, classify, understand and transform my depression.
The drawings and sculptures of these forms, which are also metaphors for feelings, are my attempts to understand and transform depression. My aim with the work in An Ecology of Feeling is to communicate these feelings to the viewer through affective means. My hope in doing so is that it will lead to new ways to describe feelings associated with depression.