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Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Blvd, South
Fort Myers, FL 33965-6565
(239) 590-1000 or (800) 590-3428

ADRIANNA ARAGO

IF I SMILE, THEN THEY WON’T ASK

Senior Project FALL 2017

The biggest lie people tell themselves, and others, is “I’m good” or “I’m fine”. Most of the time that is just a façade, empty words we say in passing. Rarely do people ask with a caring thought in mind, and rarely do they want to listen. The question “How are you today” has become less a question with sincerity and more of a habitual action in social passing. For me these words mean nothing. I am not fine, or “OK”, nor does anybody care enough to listen. Since I was young I’ve been going along with this charade, this social action of saying “I’m fine”. Over the years it gets harder and harder to keep my smile going and the façade up; I need to find new ways to make the illusion last.


The faces and mouths, that I have created, are intended as metaphors for different forms of self-mutilation. The mutilations are done to force the smile into place and to hold it there. In the 1930’s, I would have been sent to an asylum for “attitude adjustment” by my husband, I would have been put in “Smile Therapy”. The premise was that if you are not happy, then you are unfit to take care of your family. The stigma of being an unhappy person has not left society. If you are not happy, then nobody wants to be near you. Thus, people are forced to look like they are fine. We are forced to see how faces are contorted to appease the social behaviors by which we all are bound. These works are variations of the different contortions and manipulations I have done to try to get through the day.


I have chosen ceramics as my media because it most resembles the body in texture, shape and, sometimes, even color. I feel this was necessary to show how ugly these, metaphorically, self-inflicted wounds
are. In these series of faces and mouths I used hooks and bolts, needle and thread to show the mutilation that must be endured.  The clay that I used is a strong clay body called Raku clay. I rubbed and painted different oxides onto the entire surface. The teeth also received a watered down commercial white glaze over Titanium Dioxide and I fired them at Cone 2.  I then wrapped each hand-built face in dyed cheese cloth, to represent my childhood baby blanket. My blanket is prominent in my life, even to this day, and has never left my side through it all. Around the age of 11, I started to give in to the façade of happiness by manipulating my face into a smile. I cover my eyes to shield the 11-year-old me from seeing the trauma that has become a part of my life.