The Art of Self

Communicating is crucial, yet a constant struggle for me. I possess a reflective view of the world and my place in it and my art (when I find time to create it) focuses on deconstructing and reconstructing that view. I aim to capture the details that are often overlooked. In my landscape work, I utilize color, contrast, and texture to create a mood or atmosphere incongruous to otherwise familiar places and objects. In my creative portrait work, I aim to unveil the hidden essence of a person — parts of the persona that often lie just below the surface.

Alone with myself, 2010

I have done quite a few self-portraits in the past few years. And while I haven’t done any in well over a year, I began to question why I, like so many other photographers and artists, dwell on the subject of self. Is it because when an idea strikes there are no models handy? Is there a deeper reason? Or are we just narcissistic?

Honestly, I believe it to be a little bit of all that. Sometimes I am struck by inspiration at an odd time during the night or day, and I just have to work on that idea. If I am the only one around — then viola — I am not only the photographer but the subject. But more times than not, the reason I put myself as the subject is that there is usually some sort of emotion hovering close to the surface I need to discharge. Not being great at expressing my emotions through speech, I choose to use a visual medium instead — photos.

In my world, I am an empathetic observer. I see varying and unending shades of gray. I feel deeply about issues surrounding me — whether they are personal or more about the uncontrollable aspects of the world around me. All these pent-up thoughts and emotions whiz around my mind like debris caught in a funnel cloud. After a time, they can cause a big old tumultuous storm of shit if I don’t eventually allow them to come out in some form of creation.

Sometimes the messages are obscure — maybe I will be the only person to really understand the meaning — or maybe they are more obvious. Or perhaps, people walk away with a completely different, yet no less accurate, assessment. Because everyone walks through life with different experiences — their own set of bumps, bruises, laughter and smiles — to others it doesn’t necessarily have the same message or emotion I was feeling when I created it. Isn’t the essence of art to not only leave the viewer with something to dwell upon but to also forge an emotional connection of their own?

I love our silences, 2010

Sometimes, I think it is a way for my subconscious to become my consciousness. In the self-portrait, I was in an anxious part of my life and much change was right around the corner. I don’t remember really setting the scene for the photo for any particular reason other than I like the creepy abandoned house the texture of the old wood and peeling wallpaper… and had an ax handy. But when I look at it now, I can see my subconscious mind was definitely at work. Awkward position, crouching next to a decaying rodent, ax in hand. I think I more accurately portray how that moment in my life felt through this image than I could ever explain to someone in words.

Maybe we all want the world to know us a little more. To be seen. To be heard. But just don’t ask why I had an ax… mostly because I don’t remember.

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Amber Guilbeault

Quip artist, photographer, marketer, writer(?), mother, and casual observer of people and the randomness of the world around me