A Deepening of Knowing You: Bare & Embellish

cover2“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.



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6 thoughts on “A Deepening of Knowing You: Bare & Embellish

  1. For this project, I used universe and rainbow themes to exaggerate my desire to be a creator and friend in need. The universe (as we know it) offers infinite possibilities. A rainbow is a union between sky and earth, a gateway to illumination and unification from the sufferings of life. However, my embellishments don’t reveal the discouragement that comes from my fear of failure. That vulnerability is only meant for those I choose. My facial expression includes smiling, biting my lip, and shrugging: although I’m naturally a positive person, I sometimes feel mediocre or undesirable, so I seek validation. I have to create, but I also need my creations to be seen.

    My art has never felt like an embellishment. It feels as much me as my brain or heart. On a typical day, I enjoy creating my body, whether with makeup, clothing, or jewelry. Each aspect has meaning — I wear lace for grace and gentleness, or earth-tones and trees, leaves, and floral jewelry for my connection to greenery and foliage. However, ever since dying my hair red, people first notice and compliment my hair, which is strange because it definitely feels like an embellishment (a prop), while the other stuff feels like me. I don’t think it’s a bad thing — just strange.

  2. Crippled with overwhelming want to tend to my need for agreeability and struggling with defining internal and external impressions. I’m ashamed of being ashamed of imperfection. I love my mask and how I feel in it, how it trudges, surprises, and conquers. My bare self endures my anxious moments alone.

  3. I didn’t really know what to do for the embellished part at first because I feel like I tend to portray myself as I really am for the most part, and that’s how I want to be seen. But then I thought about how many different parts of me there are, and how I’m not every part of me every moment of my life.

  4. I have a lot of insecurities about myself, and I am very emotional. But on that emotional spectrum, I am also very happy. And I feel like my happiness comes from my family, friends, outdoor activities, and crafty hobbies. There are many sides of my embellished self, which is why I couldn’t just choose one. I am a scientist, a bit of a naturalist, an artist, and someone who likes to express their love for favorite fandoms. These are all parts of me — whether it is my day-to-day beauty techniques, getting ready for work, or dressing up in cosplay. This project was a fun experiment on my creative side, while also forcing me to look at myself through the parameters of the Bare/Embellished spectrum.

  5. My sister Sarah and I picked spring blooms in our “soul colors” as a way to represent our truest nature, then looked up the symbolism for every flower, and sure enough, we found the meanings resonated for each of us. As women, we are learning what makes us rare and precious, how to embrace the gifts we are given and to crown ourselves with honor and glory in it, because we are worth it.

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