Perceive Me is a performance artwork which focuses on notions of self-worth, validation and the idea that we value our identity based on how we imagine others perceive us.
Who are we in the eyes of other people? Does it matter? Should it matter? What do you look like? Are you beautiful, ugly, weird, crazy, sad, frumpy, glamorous, fabulous, dirty, depressed? Why do we take other people's opinions of ourselves so seriously? Why should we care? Does it change our opinion of ourselves? Does it affect our daily lives?
To answer these questions, I asked 59 artists to create nude portraits of me. They have responded with paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, video and a 3D print.
Perceive Me opens with an exhibition at California State University, Los Angeles January 25, 2020. The show will also travel to Coastline Community College and the Museum of Art and History in Lancaster in 2021.
The amazing artists included are: Amanda Mears, Anna Kostanian, Anna Stump, Ashley Bravin, Austin Young, Baha Danesh, Betzi Stein, Bibi Davidson, Bradford J Salamon, Caron Rand, Carson Grubaugh, Catherine Ruane, Chris Blevins-Morrison, Christina Ramos, Cynda Valle, Daena Title, Daggi Wallace, Dani Dodge, Debbie Korbel, Debby/Larry Kline, Debe Arlook, Diane Cockerill, Donna Bates, Elizabeth Tobias, Ellen Friedlander, Emily Wiseman, Geneva Costa, J Michael Walker, Jane Szabo, Janet Milhomme, Jeffrey Sklan, Jesse Standlea, John Waiblinger, Jorin Bossen, K Ryan Henisey, Karen Hochman Brown, Kate Kelton, Kate Savage, Kerri Sabine-Wolf, Kim Kimbro, L Aviva Diamond, Leslie Lanxinger, Mara Zaslove, Marjorie Salvaterra, Martin Cox, Monica Sandoval, Nancy Kay Turner, Nurit Avesar, Phung Huynh, Rakeem Cunningham, Serena Potter, Sheli Silverio, Susan Amorde, Susan T. Kurland, Sydney Walters, Tanya Ragir, Tony Pinto, Vicki Walsh
I grew up hating to have my photograph taken. I remember when I was 11 or 12, my grandma took my brother and I on a road trip to San Francisco. She took every spare moment to take photos. I have one photo that I deliberately had a bitchy face because I was getting frustrated with all of the pictures. I didn't like the way I looked. I didn't want my ugly, large nose and double chin to be memorialized. As I got older, I went through periods with my friends where we would take photos and put them in albums or wallets or frames. We threw away so many where we didn't look good. Back then, we got them printed at Walmart. We didn't have the option to delete them from our phones or cameras and retake them.
When I was working on my master’s degree at Cal State Northridge, I entered the painting program with my abstract paintings, but left with a degree after doing my thesis focused on my body, eating disorder and my ideal avatar who I so desperately wanted to be. She was tall, thin, blond, classy... beautiful. I felt I was not. My avatar was based on my 'ideal' self. She had my personality, my wit, my intelligence, but she was beautiful. She was everything I wished I could be on the outside.
10 years later, Perceive Me has brought me right back to that place. In this performance, posing and modeling for these 59 artists, I felt like a supermodel. I felt thin, bold, beautiful, classy, elegant, sexy... everything my avatar was, but that I wasn't. The artwork was amazing. Then I looked in the mirror...
Officially I have been working on Perceive Me for two years. My first official collaboration was with Amanda Mears. She had invited me to work with her on a drawing project she was working on. During our sessions, we had great conversations about body image and how we reflect, project and perceive how we imagine others see us. Perceive Me was born.
Before Amanda, I had worked with Chris Blevins-Morrison when she was documenting women artists in 2014 and J Michael Walker for his Bodies Mapping Time project in 2018. For both shoots, I posed nude. When Perceive Me began, I realized I needed to include these collaborations in the project. After I worked with Amanda, I started a list of artists whose work focused on the woman’s body. I was only going to include 40 artists, then 50 and the list grew to the final 59.
Perceive Me Is not just an exhibition or a catalog or Instagram posts. It is a performance, a platform for empowerment, for owning who we are, for being unique and authentic, for taking back our bodies in the #metoo movement, for being true, powerful and strong no matter what body shape, size, color, gender we are. Perceive Me is for everyone.