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Strength in sculpture

Introspection has always been at the forefront of my artwork. I began studying art knowing the process would be vital to my mental and emotional health. Having dedicated my life to a classical music degree, art making was a frightening unknown. In music, everything was a calculated performance. It consumed me. I lost sight of who I was in futile attempts to distinguish my voice in conducting. I was terrified of failure and that proved detrimental to my success in music school. It left my identity in a state of ruin. Intuitively, I knew art was something that would thwart my cowardice. Despite my lack of technical skills, I swan dived into a new creative process, navigating my stages of grief through sculpture.

I started slow, experimenting with new mediums, and working to articulate emotions leaving me vulnerable to my peers and mentors. Vulnerability had always been my greatest struggle. Creating sculpture was the most terrifying and rewarding task I’ve accomplished. Within the first two years I worked through the first three stages of grief: shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger and bargaining.

Prior to the pandemic, I realized I needed to find a new mode of work. I no longer felt regret. I was no longer mourning the loss of who I was. When quarantine shook the world, the isolation from the studio left me numb. The studio had become home and sculpture, my haven. Welding had become as instinctual as breathing. The loss of that space felt like déjà vu. I could only think about the art I wanted to make, at a complete loss to make it.

If there’s one thing I retained from my classical music training, it’s that the absence of sound is as intricate as its presence. Silence is as vital a component to music as tones. Without silence, rhythm would become bland. Without rhythm, music has no motion. In that parallel, I began to crawl out of my depression and critically consider the changes I wanted to see in my practice.

I began to analyze how I process the world around me, how that is reflected in my visual art, and how I could reframe my creative approach. I realized that finding a voice in sculpture made perfect sense. In conducting, my understanding of orchestration was based on mass. Musical shape, texture, line, color, and value were all defined by my understanding of form. In music, I gravitated towards conducting because I found an inherent ability to communicate my ideas through expressive gestures. In art, that practice intrinsically shifted to the figure. It was inevitable that I would move to focus on the expressive qualities articulated in anatomical design.

Despite the weight quarantine brought on my mental and emotional health, it proved to yield a reflectional period allowing me to enter a reconstructive phase. I wasn’t limited to my love for metal fabrication. There were unlimited means to visually define my thoughts. I could make art anywhere, I just needed to commit myself to exploring new mediums. Wading through floods of ideas, I realize my intuition and introspection are intrinsic elements in my daily life. That’s something that my artwork will always mirror. In my acceptance of self, I discovered strength in my quiet observations of the world. My remaining question was how to evoke those strengths in a body of work. How can I best share those ideas from beneath the protective shroud I found comfort in? My sources of inspiration have not changed, but now I’m working to illuminate the slivers of hope I’ve found in the chaos of doubt and find life in every mark.

Since enrolling in Todd Mitchell’s sculpture class, art has given me hope. Sculpture has brought me confidence and a sense of belonging. Art revitalized my life and I’m working towards celebrating the discovery in my artwork. The opportunities I’ve been given at Macomb Community College are unparalleled. Through the college, I’ve been fortunate enough to study artwork in France, Greece, Italy, and Spain. With the support of my mentors, I’m now entering a new stage in my career as I work on completing a summer residency at the New York Academy of Art.

IG: @catherinesculpts


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