Reality of Illusion: Discerning Identity within Art and Theater Constructs

A St. Mary's Project

Spring 2001

Artist's Abstract:

I am interested in the gallery space functioning as a stage. The barren nature of unoccupied gallery walls and neutral carpeting is as much of a fresh canvas as a clean sheet of paper, or indeed that of a stage where the curtain is drawn. It is generally known what to expect in each of these situations. Viewers in a gallery expect to have images to digest. Theatergoers anticipate performance-moving bodies and illusions of a different reality that in some way comment on the human experience. I wish to incorporate the expectations inherent in both of these mediums in my work.
Through various approaches to self-portraiture which include drawings, marionettes and an installed environment, I want to set up a dialogue between the metamorphic nature of self image, the internal and external landscape, and the potential for a viewer to become the author of a work as well as its audience on the basis of a shared humanity. My self-portraits exist both as charcoal drawings on paper and articulated puppet forms installed in an environment. Both types of portraits are designed around my facial and body structure but are not intended to be strict representations of my appearance. Instead, the two versions of portraits are intended to be records of specific internal and external conditions that I feel define my identity. These records contain a heightened sense of emotion and dramatic flair that I perceive as necessary elements to engage and communicate effectively with an audience as well as being defining aspects of my personality. The portraits also function as masks as no one portrait is an exact match of either my appearance or internal condition but rather a stylized version of it, emphasizing elements of the body and face I feel to be most expressive of specific states of mind.
The series of portraits can be realized as a continuum; a metamorphic timeline, representing various versions of self-perception over a set period. They are drawn on the same size paper and hung at eye level so that they might mimic a series of mirrors; reflecting what I saw while drawing myself and also potentially mirroring aspects of an audience's own set of self-perception. Throughout the course of my work, I have raised this question to myself-is any sort of individualized personal/emotional landscape a strong enough bridge to make art upon? I conclude from being a hungry observer of human nature that specific vulnerabilities and defects in a person is fascinating, in both theater and 'real life'. Therefore, I would be glad if people came to view and dissect my work with the same sick fascination one might have with reading a stranger's diary; learning about themselves as they inspect the bared innards of a fellow human.

--Jolene Schafer

Image Gallery

Artist Statement

Annotated Bibliography

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