Mapping #3, 2013
Mapping #1, 2013
Layers Revealed (Mapping #1), 2014
Megan Conley – Artist Statement
As an artist, I am compelled to make work that explores issues of self-identity, born from my experiences dealing with facial and dental deformity and the ensuing correction process that has lasted ten years of my life–and is still ongoing. Currently, my mouth, chin, jaw and gums have twenty-five plates and screws that will keep everything intact for the rest of my life. The changes in the skull affect the material condition of the skin and reveal its plasticity. This allows me to think of the skin as a mutable surface, because of its ability to adjust and become manipulated. My skull has lived the life of two different people: one that once repulsed others and another that is now more desirable. I am compelled to make mixed media portrait installations that deal with the multiple mappings of identity and topographic contour lines that study the physical structure of the face.
To make these mixed media portrait installations, I use photographs, such as Mapping #1, (2013), where I re-experience facial disruption through performance, caused by my own hands, using toothpaste and Vaseline. These materials were used as healing agents during this ten-year period, but instead, only covered up the ongoing corrective process, which added to disfigurement. I am putting a mask on an already existing mask–my skin. These photographs have allowed me to examine my own skin and what is permanently behind it. In Layers Revealed (Mapping #1), the piece is comprised of three layers, the first layer reveals topographic lines which reflect the movement created by my hands. The movement is rendered in makeup, acrylic paint on plexi and suspended in front of a 4 x 8ft sheet of metal. The mask is used to re-create the first half of my life, a memory that cannot be reversed back. Since the corrective process is permanent, this is the death mask of my grotesque identity.
When an audience views my work, I want them to question why my face has been made into an installation where the layers are revealed as 2D objects. Screws and plates are the utilitarian objects that have obstructed and mediated my face, making a permanent affect. They allowed the skin on the outside to move with it, adapting and settling on its new skull. I am revealing to the public a private experience that was strongly influenced by society’s pressure of what is considered desirable and socially acceptable. I want my audience to walk away with an understanding of time’s relationship on ‘repair’ towards the body. The transparency of the plexi glass allows my audience to go behind the face, experiencing what is behind the skin, and its reconstruction.