Thin-Skinned

Grace Weaver, senior art major:

I got a grant from the URECA program, which is actually more geared toward biology, chemistry, math students, and I sort of proposed my work there as a research project, because I do feel like I'm investigating materials in a research-y sort of way. And it's also through the Honors College. This is my thesis exhibition.

For this show, I'm interested in the surfaces that separate the body from the external world. So skin is this really thin organ that covers your whole body. But it totally separates you from experiencing the world fully. All of these figures in my paintings are trying to breach that divide and trying to connect out into white space around them that they can't quite permeate.

And then, I'm also interested in the tools people use to modify their bodies and try to connect -- like binoculars: trying to extend your vision out and somehow try to put yourself out there into the world a little bit more. I guess I'm not really interested in trying to create a picture of the outside of the body. These stained pieces on paper sort of feel like a more felt image of the body -- the way it feels to look out behind a pair of glasses, rather than a picture of someone sitting there wearing glasses.

In terms of influences, there's a Brazilian artist named Lygia Clark from the 60s, who I got really interested in this semester. Looking at her work and looking at early 20th century Modernism, I feel like there's this great hopefulness in that kind of work: this hopefulness for communication between people through really minimal art. Lygia Clark made goggles and made masks that were supposed to facilitate communication between people, and she didn't even think about them as concrete art objects. They were just supposed to be these intercessors between people to get them to really look at each other and listen to each other. And I'm really interested in her work, and I almost wish I could make something that was that hopeful. But when I look at my work, I guess it sort of talks more about the failure. These goggles don't really work; you look into them, and you're sort of stuck. Or, a lot of these figures seem kind of stuck in the paintings. Maybe they're trying to push their way out or trying to peer out, but they're pretty stuck in there.

In my studio, I have all these science books from the 1960s. They're these sort of goofy photos of scientists in their laboratories. These 1960s scientists were really trying to understand the chemistry of the world through very physical means, playing around with really dangerous materials and blowing things up. I don't know, I guess I sort of feel like that sort of goofy scientist when I'm in my studio, executing all these experiments and trying to understand things through materials.

All summer I played with lots of different materials and messed around. I started working with enamel, and the pieces I'm working on now are really dissolved or really thinned-out enamel paint and then sort of stained onto paper. And then I'm using a sponge brush, which I found works really -- or, it allows me to create the same sort of gestures as with pencil. They're sort of a humble, dorky kind of tool. But I enjoy trying to really master this weird tool and get as much as I possibly can from it.

It takes me a while to get really into what the medium wants to do, the shapes that this ridiculous sponge brush want to make and then open to the irrational, I guess, and open to unexpected things coming out. And I think that's often when the work is the best.