Anthony Watson

The Existential Condition of Man: Otherness

Senior Project December 2013


     The concept explored revolves around the intriguing phenomena of social alienation. Social alienation generally speaking, is when one is estranged from other people. There is a perceived and experienced sense of otherness and this creates a divide between the two. The result is that they become less able to relate to one another and alienation occurs. Members of a social group can potentially ostracize others whose personality types are too dissimilar to their own. A person can withdraw also from others because of frustrations, arising from not being able to establish stable interpersonal relationships. This can further reinforce alienation by seeing such potential conflict occur with the self, and thus the self estranges itself from its own sense of awareness. The lack of being able to self-actualize is the cause of this inner conflict. Social alienation can occur between class divisions, individuals, and social groups. It can even occur between political figures and their constituents.

     These ideas are relevant to me because I identify with social alienation as a state of being. My childhood was fraught with having trouble connecting with others and creating interpersonal relationships. I was not accepted by many my own age because they perceived me as dissimilar and therefore they viewed me as an oddball. This caused quite a bit of grief in my life and I became alienated by my peers.  The pieces I have made embody my frustrations, my sorrows, and my sense of separateness because of how I was treated. Through introspection, research and inference, I realized just how broadly social alienation can apply and that many can be alienated in all sorts of circumstances. Therefore, I have made the figures in my pieces represent series of states that everyone can relate to. Therefore, the viewer imposes their own experiences onto the meaning of the piece through personal interpretation. In this way, the pieces act as mirror reflections of the onlooker. I believe that by this process these works will evoke a sense of empathy within the heart of the viewer, as s/he considers the implications of the piece and his/her interpretation of it.

     My collective body of work primarily incorporates mixed media, including wood as a primary medium of expression. Part of my series consists of wood panels with portraits and full body figures burned onto the surface. This was achieved by using a wood burner, with a heated metal tip that darkens the burn, when in contact with the surface. In addition I’ve used white wax china marker pencil, white conte crayon, and graphite for the shadows and highlights. The wood’s roughhewn surface was ideal for the figures I depicted, as it represented the rough state of the marginalized person’s psyche. The contrast in the grain brings one’s attention to the texture of the surface and makes the roughness of the wood all the more apparent. The other half of the series consists of wood cut prints that I created through carving wooden templates and then pressing these templates onto rag paper. The prints were printed on rag paper in black and white, as the contrast brings attention to the details of the figures facial features. The color is chosen precisely because it sets the mood, as the theme of my exhibition is a dark one. My reason for including prints in my series was because of German Expressionism’s profound influence on the conceptual and compositional elements of my pieces. Therefore these elements are integral to the meaning of each individual work.

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