Recently I’ve been on a 19th century binge, reading Bronte, Dickens, Tolstoy and especially Trollope. Many of these novels highlight the Victorian obsession with predicting a person’s character through their appearance. The work of the story was to reveal, through action, the true selves that lay behind these facades. Two popular pseudosciences of the time are often referenced: physiognomy, which interpreted facial features to analyze personality; and phrenology, which used the bumps on the skull to study the function of one’s brain.
These images grow out of my interest in these Victorian preoccupations, as well as the symbolic and cultural layers inherent in the human face and head. I began creating faces, tearing paper rather than cutting so as to preserve a chance element. The profiles are structured as “maps” of faces, sometimes painted and sometimes crushed into sculptures. They invoke phrenology, palm reading, and also as treasure maps, each a different form of reading or interpreting information.
The pictures sometimes highlight the incongruity between the faces and their shadows, causing a reexamination of the source object. The shadowy silhouettes are formed by photographic lighting, reinforcing the presence of the profiles as actual pieces of paper that existed in space, and cast their shadows onto a surface. As captured by the camera, they are transformed into two dimensional renditions of the three dimensional world. They continue my longstanding interest in using photography to flatten, transform, and preserve ephemeral compositions.