“You look at people the way you look at art: the body is a canvas for the artist, and while you begin to imagine meaning, the artist is known only by invitation.”
Originally, I identified the “embellished-self” as how you express yourself visually, and the “bare-self” as the inward you. For embellished, I asked people to wear things that represent the qualities they wish the world to see. Then, I asked them to get as naked as possible and use only facial expression to represent their bare-self. Before I asked people to explore and expose these parts of themselves, I had no idea “bare” and “embellish” is more complex than “beauty is only skin deep” or “it’s what’s on the inside that counts.” For example, some people embellish their personality, perhaps by training their brain to find the silver lining in every struggle or ignore violent thoughts to appear safe to others. Some people feel alien to their naked body and believe the physical modifications create the real them. It can get confusing figuring out which parts of oneself are sincere and which parts are a disguise. It can get confusing trying to interpret meaning from a stranger’s canvas without knowing their intentions. The line between bare and embellished can be defined or blurred. Overall, each artist walked away from this project feeling more aware of how parts of the self come to intersect, blend and expand, or stand apart.
These artists come from a diverse Pacific Northwest population, including members of Carma Cosplay, Haus of Dharma, a drag entertainment company and agent for LGBTQ rights advocacy in the Mid-Willamette Valley, and the Seattle Babely women’s event.