Portraits: Self

For years I avoided performance art – in my snobbier youth I dismissed it as “bullshit theatre” because the people I knew doing performance art in my town were frankly annoying. I went down the comedy path instead, taking classes at Second City and Upright Citizens Brigade from 2009-2011. Although I made a ton of friends, I didn’t like the comedy scene much in NYC! I found it sycophantic, and people were largely more concerned with career shortcuts rather than artistry (improv at UCB was a Ponzi scheme, let’s be real). The experience, however, did teach me how to be less inhibited, and to start exploring characters organically.

I changed my tune about performance art after discovering the work of Frank Tovey and Carolee Schneemann, and began to explore my physical form as expression. Then my life turned upside down: I abruptly ended a five-year relationship, lost my job, and moved to a major city all in one year…then had to rewrite my entire existence. I found that creating these avatars for my mental states during these massive shifts helped to ground me when I started going down rabbit holes.

It really exploded after I came to NYC and studied mime (very) briefly with Richmond Shepard. Richmond helped me start channeling energy into my face and body; I would go on to do a performance art residency in Kingston, bouncing around the Catskills for a bit with folks from Panoply Lab, Grace Exhibition Space, Rosekill and Art/Life. Working with the brilliant performance artist Nina Isabelle also really rewired my thinking, and the two of us have gone on to collaborate over the years.

In real life, I’m outgoing but spend most of my time in solitude. I dislike being onstage, and have a terror of singing in public. But freezing action in a still, or short film clips, has allowed me to cast myself in centre stage without the pressure. Is it healthy? Who knows! I do know that it’s kept me alive at times. I can shapeshift my visual façade, I can channel energies through me, I can be a terrifying demon or a beatific saint. And really, aren’t we all?