This series of self portraits originated over 25 years ago during a hypnosis session when I was called to make a choice between head and heart, art and science. I chose heart and art. At the time I was in the middle of a degree in microbiology. I committed to completing the degree, but shortly thereafter began working as a photographer. The subsequent years were devoted to my artistic practice which was interwoven with raising my family.
My photography centers heavily around the family. Both familial emotional relationships and the experiences are crucial themes in my work. Recording families lives in order to create a record of love and joy that can be later accessed by those children once they have reached adulthood is the crux of my work.
In this series, the images are an interpretation of my dream world and my visioning, which are both comprised of and illuminated by archetypal motifs and mythologies. Jungian classical themes feature heavily in these creations. The objects in the photographs are both symbolic and representative of important moments or experiences in my life.
This series of photographs is titled Integrity versus Despair. A health crisis necessitated my looking into the heart of myself, weighting my life and my contributions to the world. Erik Erikson writes about the stages of psychosocial development, and this work is the story of the final stage, Integrity versus Despair.
This portrait was conceived 25 years ago during a hypnosis session. At the time I was a student studying microbiology, with the idea of becoming a doctor. While I loved the study of science and the thought of being a doctor, I also knew that I would have to be single minded about it, and would not have room for family. During the hypnosis session, I saw this image and realised I was being asked to make a decision between living in my head and living from my heart. I chose the heart. I completed my degree and went on to become an artist.
You Are In Your Grandmother’s Ovary
This portrait was conceived 25 years ago during a hypnosis session. Intergenerational abandonment is a theme I have struggled with all my life. My mother left me as an infant and her mother left her. Before my children were born, I sought counselling to ensure that I would not continue the cycle. When I was diagnosed with cancer, my first thought was for my children. I could not leave them and would do everything to stay with them. A cancer diagnosis quickly strips you of any mental surety you have about the world and I had to come to terms with the possibility of leaving my children. My counsellor (again with the counselling! more abandonment issues!) pointed out that even if I were to die, my children would have a mother who died, which is a very different narrative than a mother who abandons. In this work to regain psychological wholeness, I had to reintegrate the spirit of my mother and the spirit of my grandmother. She is an imagined figure. All I know about her is she would have been a young adult at the end of World War 2.
Pieta means ‘pity’ in Italian but a more accurate translation would be ‘compassion’ – which means “to suffer with”. On a personal level, it represents the feelings I have for my child who struggles with anxiety. I also worry for both my children as they grow into adults and navigate the world. On a more collective level, I feel so much compassion for youth today. The challenges they face in their lives from climate change to mental health are overwhelming.
The yin and the yang. The masculine and the feminine. The water and the air. The adult and the child. The life giver and the life holder. The birds on this dress are upside down, but in this picture are right side up, as if to carry me away. But I am a mother and am tethered to the earth through my children, who provide meaning in this world.
My Sacred Heart
Everything in this portrait is symbolic both as a metaphor and as lived experience. After I had surgery for breast cancer, the wound became infected and opened up. It is surreal seeing inside of your body and I felt as if I could see into the heart of myself. In that moment, I saw this picture. We are all sacred. Each one of us carries divine light within us. We are all valuable. All necessary. (The fire in this photo is real, not photoshopped, although it is a composite so I would not light my hair on fire.) The heart I am holding is that of a deer – I have often been accused of being too sensitive, but I now know that that sensitivity saved my life.The pink roses are life and motherhood. The deer/stag behind me was my protector as a child when we lived on the estate at Hatch Court, near Hatch Beauchamp. The globe shows both my birthplace and the birthplace of humanity, and the journal, my journey.
As humans, we carry the illusion that we are in control of our destiny. Life often holds plans other than ours, and at some point, to stay sane, we must surrender control. In my hands I carry my journal, in which I lay my plans. In my other hand I hold a sand dollar – to me a symbol of evolution and the subconscious.
PROJECT DATE: 2019