"Personal Style"

Celestial Breathing

These past few weeks have been so busy I haven't had any time to take photos, least of all time to blog about them. For me this is like cutting off an artery as this blog and my photos are such an integral part of my life now that I've been doing this for almost 2 years. So one very groggy morning after a long non-stop working week when my body was beyond over-exhausted it randomly just decided to wake up and unwillingly go back to sleep at 8 am despite my 3 am bedtime. I was walking to the bathroom and saw this magnificent light reflecting off the floor. Next thing I knew I was setting up my camera on the tripod, throwing my dress over my head and rolling all over the floor.

I had no idea what I was doing or why or what I wanted to get out of this experience other than I wanted to embrace the light.
Feel it's warmth within my skin, the matted curls, feeble bones and overwhelming soul. 
I wanted to unveil a mystery that I myself don't understand but am constantly trying to wrap my head around. 
There is a quote I came across recently that I can't stop thinking about, "It's just a feeling I've got. Like something's about to happen but I don't know what." 

Celestial breathing of the universe. 
The visible about us seems to rest in itself. 
Its as though our vision were formed in the heart of the visible, or as though there were between it and us an intimacy as close as between the sea and the strand. 
There is a ramification of my body and a ramification of the world and a correspondence between its inside and my outside, between my inside and it's outside. 
The thickness of the body, far from rivaling that of the world, is on the contrary the sole means I have to go unto the heart of the things, 
by making myself a world and by making them flesh.

Performing the Self

Performing the self - it sounds like a paradox but let me make my case first. A few weeks back I went to Bosi Contemporary to see the performance artist Marta Jovanovic discuss a book based on her art written by Kathy Battista that is now out for purchase entitled none other than Performing the Self. As I walked throughout the accompanied exhibit that included photography, video, installation and the written word all based on and staring Marta I felt an eerie connection to my own work. After listening to Marta discuss the details that have lead to where she is today it was impossible for me to not see the similar ties between her and I. 

When she was younger she was a ballet dancer just as I was and she learned to express herself through movement and appearance. The body became a medium and tool for her to express a message. After ballet turned out to not be her choice of career she was still very connected to the body as a vessel of expression; art became a form of therapy for her as a way of understanding herself more - self awareness. I have always said that much like psychology majors who often go into the field to try and diagnose themselves the same goes for artists. Like Marta I've always considered my work to be a form of therapy for me especially considering that it is inherently about me and my experiences. Whether it's going out and taking self portraits or getting dressed that morning or writing they are all a way to express what is essentially performing the self. 

So this idea of performing the self suddenly becomes very confusing but at the same time truthful i.e. the paradox. The other day I was discussing my self portrait series with a friend and mentioned that I was tired of seeing pretty pictures of myself and wanted to see the ugliness that I feel and thus the creation of my No More Pretty Pictures set. In response they asked if I am just putting on performances since I am self aware of this decision to express specific aspects of my personality. I couldn't disagree because I am making fully aware decisions to express this and not that. To show this side of something and not the other side. Working as a model and being a photographer self awareness is a vital quality to have so now the question comes to this: is it truly possible for the self - the way that you live your life every day - to be a performance? And if it is then is there a time when the performance begins and ends? If you document the self, write about the self and analyze the self then does the self become a qualified piece of performance art or is it just an overwhelmingly warped form of narcissism?  And also when does a performance turn from a conscious falsified or fantasized show into reality? Can it really be true that life is a performance and world is our stage and in that case isn't everyone a performance artist or must you be self aware for this to be true?

These are fine lines that can fluctuate depending on who is looking at the project and the answer is that both ways of looking at it are right. A urinal can be a urinal or it can be a sculpture if put in the right context as Duchamp proved over 100 years ago. The self can be a piece of art and the self can create a piece of art, it just depends on which one you want to be and it can be both as well as Cindy Sherman proved. This topic always takes me back to the philosophy of the Art Nouveau movement that everything in your life including yourself can be a work of art. It also reminds me of Andy Warhol's famous statement "Art is whatever you want it to be" yet not everything is art. Oh the enigma of the fine art world, what a troubled career path I have chosen..... 
What are your thoughts on the subject of performing the self?

Red Lips

I've always been a fan of red lips but I never really wore them unless I was going out or something of the sort. Since my move to New York however I've pretty much made the red lip my make-up go to with little to nothing else except maybe some mascara if I'm feeling especially shit giving that day. What I find so interesting about the red lip is the way putting this color on my face makes me feel. It's almost as though I completely transform from roll-out-of-bed, groggy and ready to hiss at the first person that rubs me the wrong way Ashley to pulled together, confident, graceful, posh and totally in control of her own life Ashley. Obviously I am both of these and thus making the psychology behind the red lip so very interesting to me. When I wear a purple lip or a coral lip I don't feel this transformation, it is only the fire engine red that gets my heart beating and confidence radiating. 

So what is it about the red lip? The power of masquerade has always been of extreme interest to me. The way that I approach dress and appearance has strong ties in the market of masquerading. Sometimes the masquerade is to hide behind a facade or create a false persona so people will think one thing when it is actually quite the opposite. By doing this I am also tricking myself into believing it and becoming it as I discussed a few months back here. In my research on the psychology behind the power of the red lip I came across this article on Psychologies magazine's website that I thought was very well written and since I couldn't say it better myself I am presenting it to you all here today. 

"For centuries, red lips have largely been seen as a stamp of immorality. In more god-fearing medieval times, it was believed that creating a plump sexualised mouth would earn you a fast-track ticket to hell. Several hundred years later, Parliament passed a law condemning lipstick, considering it a sign of witchcraft. To confuse further our feelings about the cosmetic, there have been large stretches in history that were pro-red lippie. The Sumerians invented the stuff (just 200 miles outside Babylon), and Egyptian women fully embraced deepening one's lip color, going as far as to make sure they were buried with pots of rouge. Perhaps most famously, Queen Elizabeth I, known for her piercing red lips, elevated the shade into something regal, instead of seedy. 

It wasn't until the Golden Age of Hollywood, with its Technicolor films and glamorous studio portraits, that red lipstick even came to be considered widely acceptable -- even aspiration. Consider Jean Harlow's pointed red pout in the 1930s, Veronica Lake's in the 1940s and Marilyn Monroe's in the 1950s. None of these actresses was known for playing the girlish ingenue. They were women with overtly feminine power. They were knowing. The lure of looking feminine but remaining powerful was such a glorious notion, it's little wonder women started to use red lipstick as a tool to communicate their own self-possession.  

'Red lipstick is a source of strength,' says Poppy King, creator of Lipstick Queen. 
'You put it on and suddenly you feel more capable than you did without it.'

Dita Von Teese for NY Magazine

Debbie Harry asserted herself in the boys' club that was the New York City punk scene with talent and red lipstick. Gwen Stefani is rarely without her signature crimson pout. And shy Heather Sweet from Michigan wouldn't have made the same cultural impact as Dita Von Teese if it weren't for her red lipstick. If some of the world's most intelligent and charismatic women are using red lipstick for all it's worth, it begs the question -- why do so many women avoid it? 

Even the act of applying red lipstick is empowering. By dressing your lips in red, it draws people's attention to you, especially your mouth, and subsequently, the words that come out of it. 'It's a symbol of prowess,' says King. Unlike other cosmetics, many of which correct or camouflage something we don't like about ourselves, red lipstick is about assertion. 'When I cajole a red-lipstick virgin into wearing it, they often say they feel like they could do anything now,' says King. 'One customer said she put it on before giving birth because it made her feel strong.' 

That's the thing about red lipstick -- its a beautiful case of chicken and egg. It may require confidence to wear, but confidence can actually be a result of wearing red lipstick -- and no one needs to know which one comes first."