Melissa Peterson Art

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Which Side of the Story Decides What You're Thinking?                                                                    

Artist Statement                                                          Work

As an investigation into the critique of individuality, I began to look at the different aspects of my life that begin to deconstruct the notion of the indi­vidual. As I began to look more and more at the events that shaped who I am as a person, thereby making up my individual story, I began to notice more and more that these events are not uniquely specific to me. Rather, these events took the shape of personal loss that was faced by a multitude of people. Not in the sense that everyone eventually loses a friend, or a relative, but in the sense that these losses in particular were not solely my losses but the losses of a multitude of people who were touched by that person's life.

Not only the concept that I was not facing these losses alone, but through this, it became evident that my entire existence was shaped by the presence, and subsequent loss, of a countless amount of individuals. From here, I began exploring how different things are shaped by, or come out of, the absence of something that was originally present.

A conceptual look at loss and grief is not something new for the art world. In developing my exploration of loss, I began to look at another aspect of the critique of individuality: How I as an artist am not my own, but rather am shaped by a long line of history of artists that came before me. Artist Felix Gonzales Torres dealt with the loss of Ross, a man whom he loved that died of AIDS. His forms mimicked this loss, from light-strings that have the capability of burning out, to weighted candy and paper that are meant to be taken away and then replaced.

One way I began exploring the conceptual side of loss was through the concept of residue. Residues represent an absence of material that was originally in its place. The residue I chose to explore was water rings. Water rings appear through accidents or mistakes; someone forgets to put something in between the surface and the glass; water rings gain permanence, or semi-permanence at least, through some act of chance. In this way, a water ring's existence reflects how I look at death. Death is seen an a permanent fixture. But the hope that I, along with many, hold onto, is that death's permanence is really only semi-permanent; that there is a hope on the other side, a resurrection of what once was into something better, more complete. In this same way, water rings seem permanent, but can be lifted out of the surface.

From here, I constructed a list of 47 words, both seemingly positive and negative, to begin to try and define and construct, in an arbitrary way, an undefinable experience. This positive and negative creates a dichotomy from which I can begin to talk about these losses both as a stressor and a relief; a joy and a sorrow. From here, I can begin to use the construction and deconstruction of events to create a pattern out of chaos. As part of this construction of pattern, I used a predetermined font of a specific size to aid to the idea of constructing through uniformity. In the same way, I created the words to go in different directions to show their interwoven nature rather than linear progression. This is intended to reflect the initial stages of grief and loss; none of these aspects can be mutually exclusive from the other, they all occur at the same time in a conflicting way. This “all at once” idea serves to mimic the emotional impact the person experiences during this time.

Not only were the words constructed, but also the placement of the rings. This not only served to create a pattern and uniformity through repetition, but also conceptually mimics my belief in the [sometimes incomprehensible] plan of God that caused these “water rings”. It also serves as a record for how we as humans compartmentalize events in our life so as to begin to try and make sense out of them so we can begin to function again. Rather than treating these events for the messiness they really seem to be, by creating a rhythmic pattern out of them, I began to toy with the idea of the constructed reality. This pattern that is formed also mimics the replaying, the restructuring, and the re-constructing that one does while trying to deal with the loss.

Finally, the color chosen served as a way of addressing the messiness on a seemingly clean slate; the impact that the loss has on people that can never really be taken away. 

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Which Side of the Story Decides What You're Thinking? Copyright 2010, MP

Which Side of the Story Decides What You're Thinking? (detail) Copyright 2010, MP

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