I created both of these pieces for an Inside-Out class that I took last year, titled “Autobiography as Political Agency.” The class allowed us to explore ideas using different mediums, such as song, photography, and creative writing. I enjoyed these diverse opportunities for expression, because as a student I feel that often I do not get the chance to exercise a different part of my brain.
The medium of the art piece is encaustic, which is beeswax. The wax creates many layers, with something at each level, and is fused with a heat gun to bind everything together. The piece is inspired by the layers of the unconscious, preconscious, and conscious. Sigmund Freud believed art was one way to allow the unconscious to reveal itself. I hoped to let go, and allow my mind a chance to unfold.
At the base layer is a self-portrait I drew in the second grade. I went to an arts elementary school which lay the foundations of creativity early on.
The spine is an image of myself, and the film and photo I developed and printed in a dark room. My backbone holds a traumatic experience from my childhood that I have fixated upon. In fifth grade, I was diagnosed with scoliosis, the curvature of the spine, and had to wear a plastic body brace for two years during puberty to prevent further curvature. The photo was taken years later, at age 17. The impacts of the brace may manifest in unknown ways. Perhaps my natural inclination towards baggy, sportier clothing comes from the days when it was necessary for me to hide my plastic back. Only loose clothing could cover the hard, robot-like hunk of plastic. The rigidity the brace commanded from me may be the reason I have a tight running posture.
The compass, in my preconscious, sometimes brought into my conscious, tilts towards the younger period in my life. While I am aware of the directions I want to go in life, I am affected by earlier events I may not remember.
The top layer, my conscious, is the photo of my parents and I. My dad wears the goofy grin he sports often, I am crowded in between, and my mother poses elegantly. This is a recent memory I hold of my family.
The plants are also on the top layer of my conscious, symbolic of my desire to be in constant contact with the outdoors. As a child, I would often go on hikes with my parents. Before I could walk, my dad carried me in a child carrier on his back. As soon as I could walk, I was hiking mountains. The memories from my early childhood are ones I still enjoy with my friends on our own backpacking expeditions.
Hand on Fire
Hand on Fire is a double exposure black and white film photograph I shot and developed. Reading about injustices in Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Assata, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and The Narrative of Frederick Douglass, and uncovering my own agency and stories, I have experienced a great deal of frustration, powerlessness, hurt, anger and vulnerability. The photo captures these mixed emotions I’ve sometimes felt, while pursuing and engaging with these emotionally challenging discussions and tasks.
- Nina Greene, Inside-Out Alumni