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My New Show: Becoming Ourselves

I'm excited to announce my latest two-person show at Dane Arts Gallery with my friend and fellow artist Jan Richardson! In this show, we've both created work that explores aspects of the self over the course of time, approaching this theme from our own points of view.

I'm especially excited about the direction I was able to go for this project. This is the first work I've made in a very long time that has been about me rather than other people.

Put another way, I'm starting to go deeper into the things I really want to say, and the kind of art I really want to make.

The artist stands next to a series of her paintings on display.

Standing next to my work at Dane Arts' First Floor Gallery.

When I was at Penland in summer of 2018, I had this realization that I wasn't really making work about myself. I did portraits of other people. My "Painting the Past" project was about my mom and her family. There's nothing wrong with this kind of work, of course, but I had the feeling that I was only skimming the surface, and that maybe by focusing on other people, I was avoiding the things that were most important for me to say.

I realized I had this deep desire to say something about myself and to be seen and known. But I also had this great fear of feeling exposed and vulnerable.

I decided then that I needed to explore this intersection of conflicting emotions. And that I needed to start expressing what I wanted to express and making work that I wanted to make even in the face of that fear.

Those feelings were the root of this body of work.

The root of this idea germinated when I followed a hunch--I went up to my attic on a chilly winter day to dig through boxes of old letters, journals, and sketchbooks.

A pile of old notebooks and journals.

Some of my journals from high school and college...just plain old spiral notebooks.

As I pulled letters from high school friends out of their envelopes and opened the pages of beat-up notebooks from college, I realized that this was fertile ground to explore. I wanted to do something with these words, this scrawled handwriting on lined paper, as a way to show the world a little bit about myself--and also, maybe, to figure some things out as well.

I love the visual qualities of handwriting and ephemera, and I wanted to add that sense of personal stories and secrets to my work. I wanted to use these words in such a way that they added meaning without needing to be read. So I incorporated them into the background of these self portraits.

Below is my artist statement for the show, which goes into a bit more detail about this whole experience. This has been a fruitful start to exploring that intersection of conflicting emotions and figuring out what I have to say right now. I am eager to continue down this path and see where it leads me.

A painting of a young woman with a cicada.

"Metamorphosis" by Brigitte Boucher; 24x18 pastel and mixed media on gatorfoam.

Becoming Ourselves, Tracing Our Stories

I have kept a journal in some form as long as I can remember—a place I could retreat to record an experience or wrestle with difficult emotions. Today, piled in attic boxes alongside sketchbooks and other ephemera, my journals are a record of my life experiences and personal stories. These handwritten pages became the backbone of this new series of metaphorical self-portraits in pastel and mixed media.

Rereading these journals at age thirty-six was a powerful (and sometimes mortifying) experience. They contain all sorts of raw outpourings, earnest ponderings, and overwrought musings—reminders of all the messiness of growing up. I found entries from two decades ago that could have been written yesterday, expressing thoughts that still resonate with me, along with sentiments that felt surprisingly foreign, revealing how much I have changed and grown.

Each piece in this series features a background made up of writing from a distinct stage in my life: childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood. The imagery in each one creates a narrative about my experiences in that time period. By juxtaposing two different forms of personal expression—the mark-making of writing and that of drawing—I’ve created pieces with rich texture and layers of meaning.

The creative process for this project was labor-intensive and took a lot of trial and error. I didn’t want to destroy my original journal pages, so I scanned them, printed them, cut and arranged them, and finally used an acrylic transfer process to get the ink from the printouts onto my board. Acrylic transfer involves placing the paper onto wet acrylic medium, then peeling the paper away after it dries, leaving the ink behind. Then I had to figure out how to draw on top of that with pastels, which need a toothy surface in order to adhere. I found a clear, sanded pastel medium that would create the surface I needed. I built up layers of paint and pastel medium on top of the transfers before starting my pastel drawings.

Each of the larger self-portraits has a corresponding smaller piece depicting a token from nature that ties into the narrative. “Sea Change” and “Dwelling” feature journal entries from my second-grade school journal, many of which focus on my family’s upcoming move from Illinois to Pennsylvania. “Metamorphosis” and “Emergence” are all about adolescence, featuring journal entries from middle and high school. “Flight” and “Trace” focus on young adulthood--my first years living on my own.

More to Come

Over the course of the next month or so, I'll be sharing more on this blog about the work and my creative process in making it--so stay tuned!

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