Portraits: Self

I was hit from behind by a SUV when I was 26, resulting in an MRI and broken hand. I don’t remember being hit, but my right hand miraculously flew up and cushioned my head from hitting the pavement. The incident changed my life completely, causing me to largely dissociate from my body. This was a phenomenon I had experienced during frequent childhood injuries and illnesses: scarlet fever, cutting my head open as a toddler, and a nasty bout of chicken pox.

I didn’t deal with the trauma of my accident for years. I packed it away, wishing to forget it ever happened, but my body reminded me. I noticed immense shifts in my physique over the next decade of my life, seemingly without effort. I went from being slim and relatively athletic, to a walking ball of cortisol from my stressful job and suffering back troubles from the accident. As soon as I left the job and my 5-year relationship, I shed it all. The changes made no sense. I had thyroid testing, endless blood work, therapy, but nothing was coming up abnormal. Finally, I talked to a nutritionist: she suggested I look into meditation to regulate my mind, and she assured me the body and mind were one. She was right.

I turned to 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 and had to rewrite my entire existence. I found that creating photographic avatars for my mental states during these massive shifts helped to ground me when I started going down rabbit holes. While most people seem to fixate on bodily perfection, the fragility of a near-death experience put my focus on the soul instead. All I really can do is treat my vessel respectfully and re-learn its pleasures after a lifetime of pain.

Soon after I came to NYC I 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.

Freezing action in a still, or short film clips, has allowed me to cast myself in centre stage without the pressure. I can shapeshift my visual façade, I can channel energies through me, I can be a terrifying demon or a beatific saint – a soul who took on the form of a really strange woman this time around. I’m at peace with that.