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Bre Norton

Senior Art Major with a Focus in Printmaking

This suite of works created by Bre Norton, focuses on how memory influences identity, reality, and ability. These works express emotions that move from the head, to the heart, and into the hands. Every stroke is a message from me of a different feeling, from a different moment of time, to myself in the future. To remind myself of my resilience and ability to adapt to difficult changes. The concept and imagery of these works comes from personal experiences, showing that memory is subject to change, just like artwork. This body of works explores identity, reality, and memory through the process of healing and adapting, to becoming resilient and overcoming trauma.

Each of my pieces were created using the Intaglio style on plastic plates with a needle tool. Next to each piece I will provide a bit of context to each piece, but the rest is up to interpretation.

Remember: Art is more than just what the artist is saying, but what the piece says to the viewers. 

These pieces are raw and filled with emotion, please be advised that some of the topics discussed in the descriptions and Artist's Statement, may be triggering to some viewers. 

The Masque 

I created this piece using two plates. It was my first attempt ever with this technique. Throughout my life I have had wear many different "masks" to hide parts of me that I was ashamed of, or felt that I couldn't share in certain groups that I was in. I have always felt like I had to hide parts of me around certain people that would not accept me fully. This piece is important to me because it allowed me to explore the metaphorical masks that I wear and my actual phobia of masks, or people wearing masks. I am not scared of everyone that wears a mask, but if I do not know who it is, it terrifies me. This is a deep rooted issue from my childhood, as is my fear of removing my metaphorical masks. This piece gave me the opportunity to heal through the process of creating something I fear.

Memories

This piece includes an image of my childhood home. The eye is a reflection of my distorted childhood memories. It includes some images of that remind me of my childhood such as my bed, blanket, play table, and bookshelf and a teddy bear that my brother gave me. I still have all of these items expect for the bed, and there are many memories that are attached to these items. The trees represent new memories that are taking the place of my old memories as I fight to remember the good parts of my childhood. 

Dissociation

For this piece I created different "masks" of random characters that came to my mind. I gave each a story and a name. Sometimes I create stories in my head of other lives that I could have lived because I do not remember certain things about my life because of dissociation from trauma and complexPTSD.

 

"Dissociative disorders are characterized by an involuntary escape from reality characterized by a disconnection between thoughts, identity, consciousness and memory."

"Dissociative Amnesia. The main symptom is difficulty remembering important information about one’s self. Dissociative amnesia may surround a particular event, such as combat or abuse, or more rarely, information about identity and life history."

"Depersonalization disorder. This disorder involves ongoing feelings of detachment from actions, feelings, thoughts and sensations as if they are watching a movie (depersonalization). Sometimes other people and things may feel like people and things in the world around them are unreal (derealization)."

“Dissociative Disorders.” NAMI, 2020, www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Dissociative-Disorders.

Swing with me 

Do you remember learning to swing? The first time you felt you could fly? Swinging so high and jumping off with triumph to show off to your friends? 

Eye-dentity

Our identities change as we go through this world. As we fall, fail, and fly. We adapt and change to new surroundings when life gets difficult or different. We become resilient to changes that would once tear us down. We grow stronger. During the process of creating my senior show, I have been able to process my identity and how I see the world. I now know more about myself than I ever have. I have grown in self-confidence and virtue. I am ready to face the world, eyes forward, and to express who I am without fear of loss of dignity and worth. 

Artist's Statement

    The theme of this suite is focusing on how memory influences identity and our reality. This is something that I believe many people can relate to, because I believe we have all struggled with understanding and accepting ourselves. My concept is universal, so many of us can relate to the emotions shown in my pieces. My works express emotions that move from my head, to my heart, and into my hands to create each piece. Every stroke is a message from me of a different feeling, from a different moment of time. Each piece represents a part of me, a part of my identity. My identity is highly focused on my memories. My memories are just that, mine. No one can share them, because we all perceive life differently.

 

    The concept of my works comes from my personal experiences with identity and memory. My memory is subject to change, just like my artwork. Memory and identity are two vastly complex concepts. Our memories shape and create who we are. These pieces were composed from my memory, but memory is not always accurate. We may remember events differently than they actually occurred. Sometimes our mind tricks us into thinking something different, to save us from pain. One key aspect of my identity is the impact of my mental health issues as a result of trauma. In order to keep myself safe, my brain would block out bad memories and emphasize the good ones. This is due to PTSD and dissociation. Instead of just a “fight or flight” response, I would forget. My art helps me reconnect with myself and cope with traumas from my past.

 

     The marking system, the composition, and the subject matter of each piece represent aspects of my fight with mental illness. I want to show emotion in each piece with my strokes and marking system. My approach at times was harsh, erratic, and unorganized. Each line represents feelings that come from a place of anger, sadness, pain, trauma, and abuse. Each time I scratched on the plate, each stroke turned into real healing, so each line is a representation of that healing. Often times I scratched erratically and harshly, some lines are deeper or wider because of that, which makes those areas darker when printed. The dark areas in each piece, show the dark areas of my life. My pieces show different types of imagery. There are faces that represent the masks we wear to hide our true identity. There are trees that represent depression and anxiety taking over, shown by the over grown vine like limbs, but they also represent growth. There are items that symbolize pieces of my childhood, taken from my memories, like the the teddy bear and the owl. The eyes represent so many things: that what we see is not always reality; that our eyes can fool us, but they also can show us truth; our eyes are “windows into our souls”; and, our eyes show our emotions. 

 

    When people look at my pieces, I want them to see me and how I am a hurting person, but I want them to know that I am healing through the process of creating each piece. Putting myself in my art has allowed me to see who I am more than just the trauma; I am more than just a hurt person and I can move past the bad experiences. I am strong and I am working hard to take care of myself. The process of creating each plate has taught me about myself. It has taught me that I have more worth and potential than I once believed. I have learned to use my art as a tool, as a coping skill, as more than just a way of artistic expression. I hope that my story can speak through my art, with the potential to help or inspire others to learn how to heal from trauma as I am. I want to show others that the “negative” and “bad” aspects of their identity can develop into good and that we are in control of and capable of creating our own healing.

 

    My understanding of myself started with my earliest memories. My memories have shaped my identity from a young age, because I only was what I was told I could be. Often times my memories were skewed and distorted by my perception. As a child I was unable to branch off and explore my identity; it was as if it was set in stone. This is due to what I believed, how I grew up, and the experiences I had. These pieces represent my change and progress into finding myself. They have helped me grow as a person and an artist. These works have allowed me to explore my purpose, reflect on my past, and express my identity. I have learned that my identity is my own to create. It is not solely reflected on my past and my memories. It is something that is flexible and constantly subject to change, just like my artwork. My art is raw, relatable, and real. It’s concepts and themes create a story that can last through generations. 

Thank you for allowing me to share my art and story with you.

With much appreciation,

Bre Norton