McKael Barnes, Parts of Us, Digital Video Collage with Sound, Variable Dimension, 2020.
Can the personality of an individual be captured through the depiction of an object which she views sentimentally? Does the fragmentation of a body direct more focus to an object or the person? Do associated stories bring the audience closer to an individual or illuminate the sentimentality of an object? I consider all of these questions as I seek to portray the personalities of individuals closest to me.
Originally this series was begun as oil paintings varying in size, spacing, and depth. Due to the unforeseen challenges and a geographical relocation, I found a new means of expression. Within the new digital medium, I have altered the way I “paint.” My brushstrokes are now created on a drawing pad as I stare intently at a computer screen. As a result, I have developed a new relationship with my artwork as the strokes are now flat and do not allow the same physical means of creation. It is less an expression of my personal style than the physicality afforded by paint, but it creates an interesting dynamic between the brush strokes and the screen. How will the loss of physicality affect my audience? I seek to achieve a similar relationship between this digital work and the viewer that I had with oil paints.
This series of digital images is composed of virtual brush strokes. Each painting depicts a unique object positioned with a fragmented part of the body, separated from its counterparts through size, space, and subtle color variations. Visual differences aside, each object belongs to an individual, who has contributed an associated story.
Each person’s body is featured as fragmented parts, yet these parts come together to compose an abstracted body, connected only through the stories and personal relationships I share with each person.
Each image is coupled with a recorded audio track, telling the story of the object in the words of each individual. As the audio progresses, the body part fades until it practically blends into the background, placing the focus on the object. The interview process illuminated a similarity among all the combined stories, where the object represents the most important or sentimental aspect of each person’s life. Objects that may not be significant to others take on a whole new meaning when accompanied by narrative. A banana, for example, may be like any other everyday food. To my subject, however, it represents a habitual fuel for rebuilding muscle after every tennis match, win or loss. The shape is reminiscent of childhood with boomerangs and rubber band guns, keeping alive the love of play. Although its very impermanence may disqualify a banana as a sentimental object to some, it begs the question of what exactly defines a sentimental object. I would argue that it is the personality and experiences of each individual that dictate this definition. Oftentimes it is an associated memory or a belief that shines through the interviews to create meaning for viewers as well.